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Millions in help for heat bills

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Buffalo: Millions in help for heat bills
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Heating is a must during these bitterly cold months, and for those who may have fallen on some hard times, the HEAP program is there to help. YNN's Natalia Martinez reports that millions of dollars are now available with Erie County officials trying to make sure no one is left in the cold.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The temperatures are now below freezing, with the wind chill making it feel like we're in the teens.

"It's too cold to be outside in the cold, or either in your house in the cold," Buffalo resident
Jenna Marion told YNN.

According to the National Weather Service, 29 people died in the U.S. because of the cold in 2011. That's down from 34 the year before.

Since 1981, Erie County has helped thousands with limited income pay for their utility bills during the winter months through the Home Energy Assistance Program. This year is no exception.

HEAP can help pay between $400 and $600 towards energy bills depending on income and the kind of energy used.

"I just lost my job, so it just got real hard," Marion said.

Since January 2nd, the emergency benefit kicked in for people currently without power or with a shut off notice in hand.

Energy Programs Director Craig Provenzo, said since then, the amount of people applying for the service has increased.

"Now we're up to 700 applications a day," Provenzo said. "We'll still expect about 94, 95,000 households to be served this year."

Uncle Sam dishes out millions in HEAP grants every year; $41 million to Erie County alone.

About 100 people now work for HEAP in Buffalo. They're trained to process the thousands of applicants coming here looking for a way to stay warm.

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