People More Likely to Seek Help With Heating Bills This Winter
The record cold that's hitting a large portion of the United States and all of Canada is going to jack up heating bills, just when so many families can't afford it.
About 8 million American households received government help with their electric bills in 2009. Power was turned off in 4.3 million households because people got behind on their electric bill payments.
" 'It looks like 2010 will be a very difficult winter for a lot of people,' says Mark Wolfe, the association's executive director. The group represents programs that subsidize energy bills.
"More households got assistance last year because of increased funding. Congress gave $5.1 billion to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. That was up from $2.6 billion in fiscal 2008.
"Wolfe says the federal government is increasingly stepping in to provide Americans with help paying energy bills in the same fashion it's provided base coverage for food and health care. 'We are not there yet. But the numbers are moving in that direction,' he says.
"The big increase in LIHEAP funding last year helped stem what could have been a flood of utility shutoffs, Wolfe says."
The New York Times said that desperate households will go to drastic measures to stay warm:
Additional resources from the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association
- "Press Release: Record Number of Households Receive Energy Assistance; Shut-Offs Exceed 4.3 Million Households in 2009" [PDF]
- "Table 1 -- LIHEAP Households Served FY 2009 and FY 2008" [PDF]
- "Table 2 -- Est. Past-Due/Shut-Offs FY 2008 and FY 2009" [PDF]
You can also check with your local provider to see what its inspectors are finding.