The “Emergency Contingency Fund” contained 300-million dollars, he says and half was released at the beginning of the winter and the second half released this week, Iowa’s share has been two allotments each one-point-seven-million dollars. McKim says this will help meet a bigger need for help. McKim says it won’t increase anyone’s benefit — the program has higher participation this year, so he says getting this second appropriation gives him some peace of mind because everyone who signed up will at least get one benefit payment. The program gives just one payment per year to those enrolled, sometimes enough to pay one month’s heating bill. Energy prices are higher this winter, which McKim says also will take some of the benefit out of this payment. He calls it a “good news bad news” situation, because the program can give folks a slightly higher benefit check, but it’ll cover a smaller portion of their bill, leaving them still behind. While this isn’t a record cold winter, McKim says he sees signs that fuel consumption will be a bit higher than last winter. The 70-percent of households that heat using natural gas will see about a ten-percent increase in its cost, and he says that’ll be a 20-percent increase for those who heat with propane. McKim says one warning sign is already apparent, a big jump in the number of ratepayers who are behind on their current heating bill, whether they’re in an assistance program or not.
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