New county office gives HEAP applicants a warm reception
People who come to downtown Buffalo to apply to help with their heating bills are used to long lines that often stretch outdoors and cramped space once they get inside. Erie County officials hope that is now a thing of the past with Tuesday's opening of a new HEAP and Emergency Services office.The county's Department of Social Services has moved the HEAP office to a new space, not far from the old one, at 460 Main Street.
Applicants this year will find a modern space with a reception area three times the size of the old one. County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the move will better serve both clients and the office's employees.
"It's a much larger waiting area, so we don't have to have clients waiting outside, and it's better office space for our employees to do their work," Poloncarz said.
More than 90,000 households request heating and emergency assistance each year, roughly 10 percent of the county's population. Poloncarz called HEAP one of the most important program the county offers.
"You don't want people living in homes that don't have heat," he added. "We don't want people to live in the cold. We don't want them to shiver at home under four blankets when they can get heat."
Poloncarz says residents who apply for HEAP run the gamut from young people moving into their first apartments to seniors on a budget.
Residents can apply for regular HEAP assistance starting Nov. 13.
WBFO's Ronald Peralta contributed to this report.