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Charities brace for expected rise in heating costs


This winter you can expect to spend a lot more on heating your home, which is why local charities are now predicting that more people will need help paying their utility bills.

From groceries to clothing, the prices of many things have risen dramatically over the past few months. And come winter, you can expect to spend a lot more on heating your home.

In fact, projections from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association indicate that we could see a 10-year high in heating costs this year. And this news is about DC-area charities helping families pay their utility bills.

“We are already seeing rising electricity costs, and many of our customers… are using electricity for heating, and their income is already impacted, where they are not earning enough to pay rent and utilities” , said Mary McNamee. , senior case coordinator for the Catholic Charities Loudoun Regional Office of the Diocese of Arlington.

According to NEADA, the cost of heating a home with electricity, compared to last winter, will increase by 6.9%, or an average of about $86 per bill.

But a bigger spike will be seen by people who rely on oil and natural gas to heat their homes.

Heating oil costs are expected to increase by 12.8%, or about $239 on average for a home. Natural gas will rise 34.3%, or about $243 per bill on average, according to the organization that represents state directors of the Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program.

“They have to choose to put gas in their vehicles to get to work to earn something, and then they have to choose…rent comes next, then utilities come last,” McNamee said.

Many families the organization has helped, she said, are already struggling to meet all the expenses. This includes some who are still on payment plans to catch up on utility bills they were unable to pay during the pandemic.

“They have to pay the current utility, plus that payment plan amount, and there’s no way they’re going to,” McNamee said.

She said it would lead to more people disconnecting from services – and seeking help from charities.

Michelle Wolfe, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Arlington, said that in anticipation of an expected increase in heating costs, Christ House in Alexandria is already purchasing new blankets to distribute to families.

According to Catholic Charities of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, there has been a 47% increase in assistance needs since the start of the pandemic. In fact, the diocese spent $6.5 million between this summer and last summer on food, rent, utilities and medical assistance for those in need.

At the National Capital Region Command of the Salvation Army, Cmdr. Maj. Mark Woodcock said they would help as many people as possible this winter with money they receive from the Washington Area Fuel Fund, which is run in partnership with Washington Gas, but he said it was impossible to help everyone.

“There’s no doubt we’re inundated with calls, and it can be disheartening to be quite candid with you,” Woodcock said. “Because you often see what you’re not doing instead of what you’re doing because the need is so great.”