The man who runs the state program that provides cash to Iowans who can’t afford to heat their homes expects at least 85-thousand Iowa households to qualify for the aid this winter. Jerry McKim, director of Iowa’s Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance program, says he’ll have about 34-and-a-half million dollars to hand out to needy Iowa households. McKim says just under 50-thousand households have already qualified for heat and energy assistance grants — a six percent increase over last year’s numbers for October and November. McKim expects another 35-thousand households to qualify in the next couple of months. “And I think part of it is an economic downturn,” he says. “We’re getting a lot of calls from people who’ve lost their jobs and maybe have never applied before.” McKim also cites the higher price of heating fuels this year compared to last. “When folks get their December bills and for sure their January bills, we’ll probably see an increase in folks needing help,” he says. The state’s utilities reported almost 18-million dollars in past due home heating and electric bills this October — the highest it’s been in six years. and McKim says many folks enter this heating season still having bills due from last winter. The average, one-time grant from the state heating assistance program will be about 325 dollars. That’s a tad more than the average grant last winter. Heating bills, though, will be more than slightly higher this winter, particularly if this winter is colder than normal, according to McKim.
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