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Projected spike in heating costs could impact low-income Granite Staters this winter

A bitter winter has meant high heating bills across the country.

As temperatures drop, some New Hampshire community action programs say they’re seeing an increased need for heating assistance. The rising cost of fuel may contribute to the problem.

Granite Staters interested in heating assistance can apply through their local community action agency

The cost of heating is expected to go up this winter in the U.S., with bills projected to rise 30 percent for those heating with natural gas and 43 percent for those using fuel oil, the most common type of heating in the state.

Low-income households spend a higher proportion of their income on energy nationwide.

Kathy Crompton, the chief program officer for the Community Action Partnership of Strafford County, spoke at a virtual discussion about LIHEAP held by Rep. Chris Pappas on Friday.

She said this year may be particularly challenging for residents, as costs are rising not only for heating, but also for food, rent, and other utilities.

“We have people who are keeping their home at 58 degrees, with little children, which is really, really cold, especially on those cold New England floors,” she said.

Federal funds released this week for heating assistance include about $25 million dollars in funding for New Hampshire through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.

The release of funds follows an October 15 letter to the Department of Health and Human Services from some U.S. Senators, including New Hampshire Democrats Maggie Hassan and Jean Shaheen, urging the release of LIHEAP funds.

New England senators sent another letter last week urging the federal government to take actions that could mitigate price increases, including releasing inventory from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve, and limiting natural gas exports.

Ryan Clouthier also spoke at the virtual discussion. He is deputy director for Southern New Hampshire Services, where he says LIHEAP is one of their biggest programs. They processed roughly 12,000 applications for assistance last year, and they’re seeing an increase in the need for fuel and electric services.

Applying for LIHEAP can connect Granite Staters into assistance programs for weatherization, which Clothier says can provide savings of 15% to 30% per year for residents.

“Those are savings that will continue with homeowners,” he said.

In the state’s most recent data, LIHEAP provided assistance to about 30,000 households in New Hampshire, Rep. Chris Pappas said in the virtual discussion.