Shutoffs Loom as Heating Costs Spiral

With record number behind on bills, federal grants fall short
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 25, 2008 10:02 AM CDT
Matilda Winslow, 76, who buys discounted heating oil with help from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, poses for a photo in the living room of her home in Dorchester, Mass., Dec. 6, 2007.   (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
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(Newser) – As heating-fuel costs climb, millions of Americans are behind on electric and gas bills—and a record number will face a shutoff over the next 2 months, the New York Times reports. A federal grant program to help beleaguered consumers keep the heat on covers just 35% of a winter's fuel costs, and states must decide whether to spread meager aid among many or provide more help to a few.

“Based on discussions with major utility companies around the country, we will see record numbers of families facing shutoffs,” said one state aid lobbyist. Some 5.8 million households will receive grants this year, a record over the past 16 years. Many are urging Congress to add $1 billion to the program to help calm fears of a bigger crisis next year.