Heat Poor in the Energy Rich USA
For tens of millions of Americans the winter is a time for layering up, staying in and shoveling out. From blistering winds to icy roads to unrelenting snowfall, Jack Frost can also be a burden in the guise of home heating bills. Obviously, heating costs are more burdensome in Kalamazoo than Key West but according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration the average consumer will bear increased heating costs due to higher fuel prices and colder weather forecasts. This scenario doesn’t bode well for the estimated 95 million Americans out of the workforce or living on a fixed-income. More to the point, vast multitudes will be unable to afford heat; and what does one do then?
Fortunately for those deemed “heat poor,” there are scores of alternatives to (pun intended) being left out in the cold. These remedies run the gamut from governmental programs and private charities to the utility companies themselves.
The most all-encompassing governmental aid package is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which provides federally funded relief to mitigate, or remove altogether, the costs associated with home energy bills. For impoverished homeowners there is even the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) that implements free services such as home energy audits, upgrading heating systems and procuring “green” appliances. All of the aforementioned programs (and much more) can be easily accessed here.
For private support heating a home there are scores of avenues to pursue and a search should start at the local level. Most Churches, Food Pantries, and Community Action Organizations (CAO’s) nearby provide various means of aid, usually employing utility payment benefits. On the national level groups such as The Salvation Army or Catholic Charities of America have availed themselves for decades to those in reduced circumstances. Another method is pleading your case outright on websites like Go Fund Me where donations are tax-deductible and setup takes only minutes.
The third, and perhaps most viable option is to inquire with the utility company itself. Most companies proffer bill-pay assistance, grants, deferred payment plans or even no-cost product. These programs differ by company and locale, and it is strongly advised to contact them as soon as possible to avoid the risk of having the heat cut off beforehand.
In the United States, the largest energy producer on the globe, nobody should have to brave the cold in their own home - there is help available, people just need to know where to turn.