More North Carolina residents are asking for help paying their heating bills this winter following a jump in costs.
Wake County has seen a 46% increase in applications to the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, to 9,413 this year, according to an email from the county’s communications office.
Applications statewide for help from the program are up 5% this year over the same time last year, to 117,345, the NC Department of Health and Human Services said in an email.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast that households will spend 28% more on natural gas this winter compared to last winter, and 27% more on heating oil.
Most of North Carolina’s $125.3 million for the program comes from a federal block grant. The omnibus bill Congress passed in December included another $5 billion for energy assistance that will be spread across the country. DHHS does not yet how much of that money the state will receive.
The state allocates LIEAP money to counties based on a formula that includes population and households using Food and Nutrition Services benefits, commonly called food stamps.
Households can apply through March 31 or until the money runs out. Successful applicants for the one-time annual vendor payment must meet income eligibility criteria.
As of late last week, the state had $32 million in program funds remaining, and all counties had money available.