High Natural Gas Prices Caused Prices to Rise as Much as 108% in December

(Radio Iowa) Higher natural gas prices are bringing Iowans higher winter heating bills, as energy companies warned last fall. Bill Marquess (mar-QWESS), program planner for Iowa’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LI-HEAP, says he’s seen about a 20-percent increase in applications from last winter. Thanks to new federal funding, he says they provided an extra boost to participants.

“In addition to what individuals would normally get, which is determined by a benefit matrix that looks at different categories, types of fuel, do you own, do you rent, things like that,” Marquess says. “In addition to that, we just issued out supplemental payments at 40% of what that first payment was.” Marquess says the program can help people make ends meet when money is spread thin.

“When households are already struggling and facing hardships, and then you do put in this extreme weather that we’ve been having, which forces usage to go up, and then because of these other issues, the cost of usage is that much higher,” Marquess says. “It has definitely, I think, had a stronger impact for households, maybe than what they’re used to.” He says they also have financial assistance for crises, like when a furnace needs to be replaced. In October, MidAmerican Energy told customers to expect natural gas bills to rise anywhere from 50 to 100-percent. A MidAmerican spokesperson says customers’ natural gas bills did rise this winter. The average heating bill this past December rose 108-percent.

(Catherine Wheeler, Iowa Public Radio)