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Rising Cost Of Natural Gas Could Impact Your Heating Bill

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Staying inside your home might sound like the best option as temperatures begin to drop across western Pennsylvania later this week.

However, turning up the heat to keep warm might not come as easy for some. That's where programs like the Dollar Energy Fund, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is commonly known as LIHEAP, and others could come in handy.

"Heat is essential in your part of the state and statewide," said Cathy Buhrig.

Buhrig is the director for the Bureau of Policy with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. LIHEAP helps families living on low income pay their heating bills in the form of a cash grant.

She says the program received additional money this year through the American Rescue Plan.

"The state received money to the total of close to $500 million this year," said Buhrig.

Buhrig said the department is already seeing more people apply than in the past, especially with the colder weather approaching. In addition to LIHEAP, families can receive heating help through the Dollar Energy Fund.

"We provide a one-time assistance grant up to $500, depending on the utility, but it's a one-time per utility per year," said Jody Robertson, director of communications for the Dollar Energy Fund.

People who qualify must meet specific annual household income guidelines. Robertson encourages families to reach out as soon as they start struggling to pay their heating bills. However, she recommends people call their utility company first to see what assistance the company can provide.

"We want customers to know what is available to them. If they reach out to us, they can review a different array of programs and find the program that best meets their needs," said Lee Gierczynski with Columbia Gas.

Gierczynski says natural gas prices have gone up dramatically, almost doubling in some areas. He says the spike is due to the pandemic and the increase in demand.

"A lot is related to supply chain issues globally," said Gierczynski.

People can also give the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania a call if they need help heating their home. A spokesperson said the organization can also connect you to the right program, and even complete an application for you.

You can call 211 or text your ZIP code to 898 211 with questions.

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