Home energy assistance programs better funded this year - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Home energy assistance programs better funded this year

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The US Energy Department is predicting heating bills will rise 15 percent this winter for natural gas customers and nearly 20 percent for heating oil!  That's because winter temperatures are expected to return to "normal" after a very mild winter last  year.

The good news--programs offering help to pay heating bills have a bit more funding this year.

Now that it's getting cooler, you might be kicking on your furnace.  And if experts are right--heating your home will cost more this year.  But the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEP, now has a little more cash to help those in need pay for higher utility bills.

"Last year I think the average when we first started was about $300 per household.  This year, we're at $450 average a household.  So that's a little better, and we hope that makes a difference for people to realize that's worth coming to apply for," said Lorna Golson, HACAP Energy Assistance Manager.

And every dollar of that will likely be needed this year, with cooler temps and an economy that's still tough for many.  The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program. or HACAP, in Hiawatha is already getting flooded with requests for heating help.

"We did do some early entry with people on fixed income.  We did about 1500 of those.  But we've had about 350 a week since then that've applied," said Golson.

HACAP expects to get nine thousand LIHEAP applications this year.  Those over 65 and the disabled can apply now.  Applications for everyone else will be available November 1st, and are accepted through April 1st.

"A person can't be disconnected if they've been approved.  So that protects them.  But it does mean April 2nd, they may have a larger bill than they're accustomed to having coming out of the winter," Golson said.

To help reduce costs, HACAP encourages you to take small steps to conserve energy, from sealing up doors and windows to setting your heat at the lowest, comfortable temperature.  HACAP even offers a class on energy efficiency.  To learn more about its programs, call (319) 739-0100.

Operation Threshold in Waterloo, which serves Black Hawk, Buchanan, and Grundy Counties, also has applications for LIHEAP available.

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