Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bitter Winter Ahead as Fuel Costs Soar

Soup kitchens and food pantries across the country are already anticipating the increased need for their services in what will likely be a desperate winter. Home heating costs are expected to increase up to 100% from last year as the cost of heating oil has spiked. These increases will make it difficult for even middle-class households to afford other basic expenses such as rent, food, and healthcare.

In the past several months, rising food prices have already contributed to increased demand at emergency food providers as low-income families have been unable to afford the food they need. Experts warn that the cost of fuel will intensify the current demand and will potentially force many middle-income families to seek emergency food services.

State governors and attorney generals from across the nation are pressing for extended coverage from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), though the average 2008 family heating grant of $359 will only slightly offset fuel costs.

New York State has already reported an over 40% increase in the number of homes whose utilities were shut off due to back payment in April 2008 as compared to April 2007. The City may join Boston officials in preparing for crisis by beginning to identify warming centers where City residents can go when temperatures dip to dangerous levels.

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