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ALBANY New York residents with documented medical conditions worsened by extreme heat may be eligible for aid to buy air conditioners this summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

The state is setting aside $3 million for the cooling assistance program, and funding will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. Households may begin to apply Thursday.

The money can go to buy and install energy-efficient air conditioners to save money on their electric bill so they are not using multiple fans or other expensive cooling methods. The funding does not cover the cost of monthly utility bills, state officials announced.

"As another hot summer draws closer, the state is helping New Yorkers in need remain safe and cool in their homes," Cuomo said in a statement. "The Home Energy Assistance Program is a critical resource for low-income New Yorkers with medical needs to get air conditioning and maintain a healthy living environment."

The federally funded program is available through the Cooling Assistance Component of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance's Home Energy Assistance Program, which also provides heating assistance through the winter months.

"This program will help provide relief from the oppressive summer heat for some of the New York State's most vulnerable individuals, including senior citizens and children with illnesses that are aggravated by high temperatures," Kristin Proud, the OTDA commissioner, said in a statement.

To apply, households must meet the income eligibility guidelines and provide written documentation dated within the last year from a physician, physician's assistant or nurse that proves a household member suffers from a medical condition worsened by extreme heat.

To be eligible, households must meet the 2013-2014 HEAP income eligibility guidelines. For a household of two, the maximum gross income to receive help is $2,844. For a family of four, it's $4,182 a month.

The Centers for Disease and Prevention reports the elderly are more likely to take medicine that impairs the body's ability to regulate temperature and are more prone to heat stroke.

Bill Ferris, a lobbyist for AARP New York, said the program is a great start and is addressing a need for the elderly, but said the first-come, first-serve basis may not be addressing enough of the need for cooling assistance. The state didn't indicate how much aid each household would be eligible for.

"We think it's a wise investment for the governor and certainly will help people stay healthy in the summer," Ferris said. "But we do believe there should be a reassessment after the resources are gone to see if the need still exists. It's cost effective for the state to do that, because you don't want people accessing the healthcare system because they didn't have the proper air conditioning in their house."

Local departments of social services will be accepting applications for assistance. The local department then works with a contractor to get the air conditioning unit installed; then the local agency gets reimbursed.

To contact your local department of social services, visit:

http://otda.ny.gov/workingfamilies/dss.asp

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