The program that helps low-income Iowans pay heat bills got another allocation of money this week. But administrator Jerry McKim says he’s seeing signs that this winter has many people, and not just low-income clients, struggle to pay the power bills. The total amount of past due utility bills in Iowa in December is not a record, he says, but the number of accounts unpaid is the highest he’s seen since starting to collect this data. McKim says that means more people than ever before are falling behind on paying their bills. McKim, who runs the LIHEAP — Low-Income Heating Assistance Program, says it doesn’t surprise him because with this year’s rise in energy prices, bills are getting higher even without a bitterly cold winter. He says those aren’t even the low-income ratepayers, just ordinary utility customers who’ve opened bills to find they total up to $600 and they may only be able to pay a part of that. McKim says some are trying to pay at least a part of that bill — but failing to keep up with the payments will put energy customers in a risky position. McKim says Iowapower companies disconnected 781 people in December. He says you’re not protected unless you’re enrolled in the LIHEAP program, and even if you’re eligible but didn’t apply the power company can shut you off whenever the weather’s over 20-degrees.
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