US heating concerns rise amid rising costs, uncertainty

US heating concerns rise amid rising costs, uncertainty

US heating concerns rise amid rising costs, uncertainty

JAY, Maine (AP) — Across America, families look to winter with fear as energy costs rise and fuel supplies harden.

The Energy Department is forecasting sharper price increases for home heating compared to last winter and some worry whether heating assistance programs will be able to make up the difference for struggling families. position is Even in EuropeRussia’s continued cut of natural gas has resulted in price increases and painful shortages.

In Maine, Aaron Remo saw the writing on the wall and began heating the oil in 5-gallon increments over the summer as costs went uphill. He filled a container with as hot oil as he could usually buy it on paid days, and used a heating assistance program to top off his 275-gallon oil tank with the arrival of cold weather. .

His family is trying to avoid being forced to make a difficult decision – choosing between food or heating their home.

“It’s a tough one,” he said. “What are you going to choose for food, or what amount of fuel oil are you going to choose to stay warm?”

Several factors are converging to create a bleak situation: global energy consumption has resumed since the start of the pandemic, and supplies were barely running short before the war in Ukraine.

The National Energy Assistance Directors Association says energy costs will be the highest in more than a decade this winter.

The Energy Department’s project heating bill will rise 28% this winter for people who rely on natural gas, which is used to heat nearly half of American homes. Heating oil is estimated to be 27% higher and electricity 10% higher, the agency said.

This comes against inflation rates that accelerated last month. Consumer prices are up 6.6%Fastest such pace in four decades.

The pain will be particularly acute in New England, which relies heavily on heating oil to keep homes warm. It is estimated to cost more than $2,300 to heat a typical home with heating oil this winter, the Energy Department said.

Across the country, some are urging utilities to implement moratoriums on winter shut-offs, and members of Congress have already added $1 billion in heating aid. But there will be fewer federal dollars than last year when pandemic aid flowed in.

In Jay, where Remo lives with his partner, Lucinda Tyler, and 8-year-old son, residents were already in the worst-case scenario before the local paper mill announced more than 200 people were out of work. This has the potential to wreak havoc on the city’s budget, and lead to higher property taxes that will eat into residents’ budgets further.

Both Remo and Tyler work full time jobs. She works 70 or 80 hours a week in an orthopedist’s office and she works from home in shareholder services for a financial services company. They don’t deserve much help, even if they’re scrapping to make repairs, buy gas, and put food on the table—and heat their 100-year-old home in a state known for bitter cold weather. .

“We work critical hours but it doesn’t seem like it’s enough,” said Tyler, who cried with relief when he learned he was eligible for even a modest amount of heating assistance.

Last month, Congress added $1 billion to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, bringing the total to at least $4.8 billion and providing additional heating assistance for the start of the winter season.

The third warmest summer on record has already hit LIHEAP funding, “so I’m glad we were able to secure these new resources before the chill of winter,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, of Vermont. One Democrat said.

But this level represents an overall decrease compared to last year, when federal pandemic relief increased the total energy aid package to more than $8 billion.

Some are asking for help who have never done this in the past. In Auburn, Maine, 72-year-old Mario Zulo said he worked his entire life and never asked for help until last year when he received heating assistance last year. The program helped upgrade their heating.

“It came to us when we needed it the most,” Zulo said.

NEADA executive director Mark Wolff said he feared the federally funded program would not be sufficient due to the high cost of energy and continued volatility in energy markets. He said it could be even worse if the winter is particularly cold.

“Crisis is coming,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty and factors at play that could drive these prices higher.”

In Maine, the state has the oldest population in the country and is most dependent on oil heating, causing a double whammy.

“People are scared. They’re worried. They’re frustrated,” said Lisa McGee, who coordinates the heating assistance program for Community Concepts Inc. in Lewiston, Maine. “There’s more worry this year.”


Follow David Sharp on Twitter @David_Sharp_AP

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