The cost of staying warm is becoming a public health emergency, according to the man in charge of Iowa’s Low Income Heating Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. Jerry McKimm says he’s been hearing from people lately who are in trouble because propane prices have doubled in the last two months. McKimm says a call from a woman earlier this week was particularly disturbing.
He says the woman and her children were huddling around a stove trying to stay warm because they couldn’t find a vendor willing to bring them an amount of LP they could afford. On the plus side, McKimm says at least it was an electric stove so he didn’t need to concern himself with that family having a carbon monoxide risk as well.
He’s suspicious about the reports that say the price of LP has gone up because of farmers using it to dry their corn and other grains. “I do not buy that this shortage is strictly due to increased use by the farm segment at harvest,” McKimm says. “I think somebody at the federal level might want to look at how much propane is being exported.”
The latest figures from the Iowa Department of Agriculture show propane prices have hit a new record high of $2.61-cents a gallon and the department says that could soon hit $3.00. Qualifying LIHEAP clients get $500 for propane for the winter, which McKimm says doesn’t go far at that price. He says clients across Iowa report their health is in danger because they have to choose between keeping warm and having enough to eat.