Home heating bills are top concern for Granite State residents this winter

Monitor staff
Published: 12/4/2022 10:26:44 AM
Modified: 12/4/2022 10:26:21 AM

Home heating costs are top of mind for Granite Staters this winter, according to a poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

With winter approaching and utility rates doubling, 89 percent of state residents polled say they are concerned about the price of heating their homes.

Unitil, one of the state’s four utilities, will increase rates to 26 cents per kilowatt hour – which is a 160 percent increase from the previous rate of 10 cents. This means that bills could increase by $85 to $100 depending on energy use.

Liberty and Eversource, which introduced an increased rate in August, set their prices at 22.2 cents and 22.6 cents, respectively. These prices will be in place through January, before a new rate is set from February to July.

Unitil will change its pay period next year to match Eversource and Liberty, with a new rate set in July.

The Community Action Program knew fear of home heating costs would be a prominent concern this winter.

Leah Richards, who oversees the fuel assistance program for Belknap and Merrimack counties, started receiving phone calls about the application process in August.

“There is more panic from people and households regarding how they will be able to balance the increased costs of everything, including electric and how to heat their home,” she said this summer. “People are very worried.”

Those who make up to 60% of the median income level can apply for assistance through their local Community Action Program.

But the demand for assistance is also putting a strain on the program’s staff in Merrimack and Belknap counties.

In an email response confirming that applications are submitted for fuel assistance, the Community Action Program notifies applicants that they are short staffed and experiencing a high volume for demand.

Applications, which can be completed in person, by mail, fax or via email, are processed in the order they are received. They first opened Sept. 1, but are accepted throughout the duration of the program from Nov. 1 through April 30.

The concern for home heating costs has also been addressed in the state house. Earlier this fall, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill that would increase the eligibility for fuel assistance programs to 75% of the state median income level. Now, expanded assistance is in place to help alleviate costs for a larger portion of New Hampshire residents. The bill provides a one-time $450 credit for fuel and a $200 credit for electric assistance for those who qualify.

“We believe these surplus funds will alleviate some of the financial pressure for N.H. families who would otherwise not qualify for existing assistance programs,” said House Speaker Sherman Packard, a Londonderry Republican.

According to the poll, the concern for energy costs holds no income bounds. Those who make $45,000 or less are more worried – with 98 percent of respondents indicating concern. But 75 percent of households that make $150,000 or more – the highest threshold polled – said they were also worried about costs.

With high inflation, the poll also found that personal finances are top of mind across all avenues – with six in 10 respondents saying they are worse off this year financially than they were in 2021.

To apply for fuel assistance contact the Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties at 603-223-0043, email FuelAssistance@capbm.org or find the application online at www.bm-cap.org/fuel-assistance-program-fap.


Michaela Towfighi is a Report for America corps member covering the Two New Hampshires for the Monitor. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in public policy and journalism and media studies in 2022. At Duke she covered education, COVID-19, the 2020 election and helped edit stories about the Durham County Courthouse for The 9th Street Journal and the triangle area's alt-weekly Indy Week. Her story about a family grappling with a delayed trial for a fatal car accident in Concord won first place in Duke’s Melcher Family Award for Excellence in Journalism. Towfighi is an American expat who calls London, England, home despite being born in Boston.

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