It’s only mid-February, and homeowners across the Northeast and Midwest regions are already counting down the days until spring begins, thanks to the constant snowstorms and sub-freezing temperatures that have caused entire cities to shut down for days on end. But for thousands of homeowners, the inconvenience of winter weather weather goes beyond messy work commutes and extra layers of winter clothing.
According to the Boston Herald, about 150,000 low-income residents in Massachusetts depend on heating assistance programs, and 18,000 homes in the Boston area alone are in need of immediate aid at the moment, despite the $13 million that the federal government awarded to Massachusetts on January 21.
That $13 million, bringing the state’s total federal fuel assistance to $144 million for 2015, seems like a lot of funding, but as the Herald explains, “$13 million divided among 150,000 households comes to just $86.66 per family.”
In Missouri, according to local news station WGEM, Governor Jay Nixon has given the state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program an additional $285,000, after the program reported that about 80% of its funding has already been used up.
And over in Idaho, the state’s heating assistance program — which usually ends around March 31, according to a Times-News Magic Valley report — is already predicted to end six weeks earlier than normal, due to a lack of funding.
Aside from the unsettling announcement regarding fund depletion, the Times-News also noted another significant connection regarding home heating costs: energy costs for the average low-income household in Idaho account for about 14% of the household’s entire annual income. For residents who live above the poverty line, however, energy costs only make up about 3.5% of the household’s annual income, making it easier to pay a little extra on heating bills during a particularly cold winter.
Now more so than in previous years, homeowners all over the country are desperately searching for low-cost strategies for reducing energy bills.