Utility Costs in Winter

Utility Costs in Winter

As the temperature drops, the costs rise for people who have to pay for utilities. Whether the heat is gas, oil-based, or electric, the price goes up even if the thermostat setting stays the same. The temperature has suddenly dropped and it is now windy and freezing. There are only so many sweaters you can wear and blankets you can pile on to fight the cold. At some point the heat kicks on even if the thermostat is set to below 70. And when the temperature outside is freezing, the thermostat kicks on more frequently.

Projections on the Cost of Heat This Winter

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, a government agency that provides independent statistics and analysis, short-term energy outlook report from October, 2017 predicts a rise in the cost of all the major heat fuel types:

Natural Gas +12%

Home Heating Oil +17%

Electricity +8%

Propane +18%

Based on forecasts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), temperatures are expected to be colder than last winter across the country by an average of 13%.

What This Means to the Working Poor

The reality for the working poor, who are MUM’s clients, is that those already working and struggling to make ends meet are likely to pay more—possibly as much as 13% or more—just to keep the heat on. If someone is working a minimum wage job—40 hours a week—they make $290 a week before taxes.  That’s $1,257 a month before deductions.

Struggling to pay the basics of rent, healthcare, utilities, food, and transportation costs on so little money in Montgomery County, Maryland is almost unfathomable. Most people pay more than that in rent and mortgages alone. Now, imagine needing to find even 10% more for utilities so you and your family can stay warm. That could be only another $10 or $20 a month that they may not have. But people earning minimum wage at a full-time job or even less if they can’t find full-time employment, are already struggling to pay their bills. They have no savings. What to many of us may be the cost of a modest meal at a decent restaurant, to the working poor could be the difference between having heat or facing a utility shutoff and freezing in their home.

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On top of that, the cold of winter brings with it increased risk of illnesses: influenza, pneumonia, bronchitis, strep throat, and the common cold among them. In addition to caregiving, which can mean lost wages if time is taken off from work, there are additional costs for things like transportation, not to mention medical expenses paying for doctor visits, treatments, and prescriptions.

Invaluable Help

The people facing some of these challenges are right here in our neighborhoods. They may be the folks you see waiting for the bus each day or the parents of children praying for a snow day. And while their children make snowmen and snow angels their parents may need angels of their own to get them through.

That’s where we come in. That’s a collective “we.” MUM and you! Won’t you help us help those in our community who may need some extra funds to keep the heat on? There is no donation too small! And our gratitude on behalf of MUM and its clients can never be too big! We see that look on the faces of those you help with your contributions. Often their tears of thankfulness say so much more than any words can. Thank you for anything you can do. Here’s to ALL of us having a safe, happy winter full of joy—and most of all—warmth!

About Steven J. Caplan

Steven J. Caplan is a freelance writer in the Washington, DC area. stevenjcaplan@gmail.com