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Electricity and natural gas bills are rising in many states. The cost of natural gas has more than doubled this year, putting upward pressure on both gas and electric bills in many places. It’s getting so bad that Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has urged residents to fill their heating oil tanks now in case of fuel supply disruptions this winter due to the war in Ukraine.
As it stands, tens of millions of Americans are at risk of getting their utilities shut off because of big summer electricity bills and potentially bigger winter heating costs that are just around the corner. Facing a choice between putting food on the table and paying their utility bills, many households are skipping the latter, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, which represents the state directors of the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
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Many householders were protected by state moratoriums on energy shutoffs during the pandemic, but most of those have expired. Now 20 million households — roughly 1 in 6 American homes — have fallen behind on their heating and electricity bills and are at risk of having their power shut off. The energy assistance directors group says the total bill for those in arrears is about $23 billion, up from about $10.5 billion at the end of 2019.
If you are among those at risk of getting your utilities shut off or need assistance paying your energy bill, help is available.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
Benefits generally come in two forms: regular help with your utilities applied annually or emergency benefits if you’re in immediate risk of having your utilities shut off.
LIHEAP operates on a first-come, first-served basis, with most states accepting applications beginning in the fall. Typically, households with a person over age 60 can apply a month in advance, giving older adults priority. To apply, contact your state LIHEAP office or reach out through the National Energy Assistance Referral hotline at 866-674-6327.