Iowans Struggling to Pay For Heating - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Iowans Struggling to Pay For Heating

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Paying to heat a home this has been an expensive process.

Now, thousands of Iowans are falling behind on their bills.

The Iowa Utilities Board says more than 243,000 people were delinquent on their utility bill last month.

That's resulted in $46M in unpaid bills in the state alone. 

But, there is money available through community outreach programs that is saving some families across the QCA.

"It was kind of a 5 car pile up that got me to lost my job and when 7.5 months pregnant, where are you going to get a job?" says 32 year-old Jamie Osborne.

Just a few months ago Jamie was out of options, and out of money. 

"Oh my God, it was horrible," she explains. " I couldn't pay my rent, I couldn't pay the electric. I was behind three months."

The mother of four was worried her family was going to have to suffer a cold winter, or go hungry. 

That was until she found a federal program called LIHEAP, or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, aimed at helping people pay their heating bills through the winter, and maybe get ahead. 

"Literally, we had just moved here and had to start over, so it helped us get ahead on stuff for the house and get ahead again," Jamie says. 

She is just one of the thousands in the Quad Cities who have taken advantage of LIHEAP.

But, those in charge of connecting people with the programs say there are thousands of people who need the help, but aren't taking it. 

And that, could be a problem very soon.

"Right now is very important because as of April 1, the utility vendors no longer have to protect their clients from disconnection," explains Jennifer Howard, Community Services Coordinator at Project Now. "They can start disconnecting homes that are behind on their utility bills."

Howard says she has seen people with months of back payments and bills as high as $200 that are falling behind. 

Many are able to get heating bill assistance, up to $600, to help offset costs, but many aren't taking it. 

Something those at Project Now want to see change. 

"I think there is a fair number of working poor out there, who are struggling, holding down jobs," says Project Now Executive Director Mo Hart. "Maybe they think there is someone who needs it more. Maybe they think they can eek through, but they qualify and we want to help them." 

We asked State Representative Cindy Winckler if there's anything the state can do to step in and help with heating bill issues, such as delaying the April 1st deadline when heat would be turned off.

She said there's no action she is aware of at the Capitol at this time. 

 

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