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N.H. residents may be seeing higher heating bills this winter. Here’s where to go for assistance.

Christopher Sessums

The expected price of heating an average home this winter is up more than 9% from last year. That’s lower than the spike in heating costs projected in October, but this winter may still be particularly challenging for Granite Staters.

Anybody facing heating challenges can reach out to their local Community Action Agency, where people can apply for assistance with fuel costs and utility bills.

Heidi Clough, who manages fuel and electric assistance at the Community Action Agency of Strafford County, says she encourages people to apply even if they think they might not be eligible for assistance.

There are a variety of ways to complete the application for assistance – by mail, email, or over the phone. Applications for assistance are open through April 30th.

Clough says the number of people seeking assistance is high for this time in the season. And Strafford CAP has been dealing with more fuel emergencies – when people run low or run out of fuel – than they’ve seen in the past couple of years.

High heating costs can be more burdensome for lower-income households, which generally spend a larger proportion of their income on energy costs.

This year there’s more assistance for those seeking help with heating, after the Biden administration more than doubled funds for heating assistance through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

That’s helping people, says Jamie Swan, the director of strategic initiatives at the Community Action Partnership of Strafford County. But, she says, the scale of the need might not be apparent yet.

“I don’t think we’ll see the true need until toward the end of fuel season, when clients may have already expended their benefit amount and still have a need for fuel,” she said.

She says the additional aid is helpful for clients who may be struggling to make hard choices between heat and other necessities, like food or medication.

“It’s really hard to eat dinner, take a bath, go to bed, get a good night’s sleep for kiddos if they have no heat,” she said. “So by providing this sort of help for families, it allows families to leverage their funds for other things.”

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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