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Americans prepare for steep winter heating bills as energy costs rise

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Across the US, families wait for winter in fear as energy costs rise and fuel supplies shrink.

The Department of Energy is predicting sharp price increases for home heating compared to last winter, and some are concerned that heating assistance programs can make up for the difference for distressed families. The situation is even more bleak in Europe, as Russia’s continued gas shortages push prices up and cause painful famines.

In Maine, Aaron Raymo saw the writing on the wall and began stocking up on heating oil in 5-gallon increments as costs rose over the summer. Usually on paydays, he filled a can of heating oil with whatever he could afford, and as the weather got colder he used a heating assistance program to fill the 275-gallon oil tank.

His family is trying to avoid being forced into a difficult decision – choosing between eating out or heating their house.

Aaron Raymo lives with his partner Lucinda Tyler and their 8-year-old son in Jay, Maine, where the winters are harsh. Tyler wept with relief when he learned that they were entitled to a modest amount of heating benefits.

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

“It’s a difficult thing,” he said. “What will you choose for food or how much fuel will you choose for heating?”

What increases heating costs?

A number of factors combine to create a bleak situation: global energy consumption, the beginning of the pandemicand the supply was barely keeping up with the previous year. war in ukraine further reduced consumables.

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

The Department of Energy estimates that heating bills will increase by 28% this winter for those relying on natural gas for heating, which is used by nearly half of US homes. Heating oil is predicted to be 27% higher and electricity 10% higher, the agency said.

This goes against inflation rates This was accelerated by consumer prices rising 6.6% last month, the fastest pace in four decades.

Moreover OPEC+ alliance of oil exporting countries Earlier this month, it decided to cut production sharply to support falling oil prices; This is a move that could increase gas prices as well as home heating costs.

Economist Betsey Stevenson says core inflation rate is “hard stuff to bring down”


The pain will be particularly acute in New England, which is heavily dependent on heating fuel to keep homes warm. The energy department said it would cost more than $2,300 to heat a typical home this winter with heating oil.

Across the country, some are urging utilities to impose a moratorium on the winter holidays, and Congressmen have already added $1 billion to heating aid. But there will be fewer federal dollars than last year when pandemic aid flowed.

“Apparently not enough”

In Jay, Maine, where Raymo lives with his partner Lucinda Tyler and his 8-year-old son, residents were already preparing for the worst before the local paper mill announced it would close and cut more than 200 jobs. This has the potential to wreak havoc on the town’s budget, resulting in higher property taxes that will further eat away at residents’ budgets.

Both Raymo and Tyler work full time jobs. She works as much as 70 or 80 hours a week in an orthopedic office and works from home in shareholder services for a financial services company. Despite struggling to keep up with repairs, getting gas and putting food on the table, and heating their 100-year-old home in a state known for its harsh cold weather, they don’t qualify for much help.

“We’re working significant hours, but that doesn’t seem to be enough,” said Tyler, who wept with relief when he learned that they were entitled to even a modest amount of heating benefits.

Last month, Congress added $1 billion in funding to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, bringing the total to at least $4.8 billion, providing additional heating assistance to kick off the winter season.

The third hottest summer on record has already pushed LIHEAP funding, “so we were able to secure these new resources before winter came,” said Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a Democrat from Vermont.

Facing temperatures below 50 million freezing points in the US


But that level represents an overall drop from last year, when federal pandemic aid exceeded the total energy aid package by $8 billion.

Some seek help who have never done this in the past. Mario Zullo, 72, of Auburn, Maine, said he’s worked his entire life and never asked for help until he got heating aid last year. The program helped improve his heating.

“He came to us when we needed him most,” Zullo said. Said.

NEADA’s executive director, Mark Wolfe, said he feared the federally funded program would not be sufficient due to the high cost of energy and continued instability in energy markets. It can be even worse if the winter is particularly cold, he said.

“The crisis is coming,” he said. “There are so many uncertainties and factors that could drive these prices even higher.”

In Maine, the state, with the nation’s oldest population and most dependent on heating fuel, deals a double blow.

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