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Utility bills are going up; help is available in the Wasatch Back

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Utilities across the board are costing more nationally and locally. For households that can’t afford increases, there are programs that offer assistance.

As temperatures drop across the area, some nights are seeing negative numbers. As energy costs continue to rise, some people are having a harder time heating their homes. Since the 2020 winter, the cost of home energy has increased 36%, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

For people in Summit and Wasatch counties, heating a home or business is costing more than last year. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, rising utility bills are being driven by the surge in the price of natural gas, which generates about 40% of the United States’ electricity.

The administration said it expects the surge to last through the winter months because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reduced overall supplies while global demand remains high.

Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) has a program to assist low-income households with energy and water bills. Joan Stradling is the heat program manager for MAG. She said the program is seeing an increase in applications this year.

“We do help a lot of people who are chronically low income that need the program year after year, " Stradling said. "But we have seen quite an influx of new applicants who have run into hard times or you know, with inflation, you know, job losses and things like that. We have seen quite a few come to us for first-time assistance.”

Stradling said MAG provides other assistance to help customers get through the winter months.

“We also have a weatherization program so we're sister programs," she said. "Weatherization provides improvements on the home to help them, help the customer, conserve energy in their home, make their homes more energy efficient.”

Stradling said MAG is federally funded and they apply each year for money. She said in fiscal year 2022, the government provided extra funds so MAG could provide supplemental payments to their customers.

“There were a lot of them, their regular clientele who really benefited from that extra help last year, which created, you know, some accounts with a pretty good credit that will take them through, you know, the peak season this year.”

Jona Whitesides is a spokesperson with Rocky Mountain Power. He said the utility company is working to help customers in need right now. The company will add $2 for every $1 donated by customers to the Lend a Hand program which helps limited income customers keep their homes warm and the lights on.

Lend a Hand lets customers contribute any amount starting at $1, which is then added to their monthly bill.