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Costly heating bills for Vt. homeowners - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Costly heating bills for Vt. homeowners

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

It's no secret this winter has been extremely cold and with that comes high heating bills. But this winter more families are having to rely on help from the state just to stay warm.

Cold and colder has been the theme this winter and while spring may be quickly approaching, temperatures tell a different story.

"Well the winter is still happening but so far we're about 15 percent colder than we were last year, but last year was a fairly warm winter, but on a 10-year average we are still cold about 6 percent colder on the 10-year average this winter," said Matt Cota, the executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

And in the cold, families have to heat their homes; a task the VFDA says is tougher this winter due to high fuel demands.

"Every fuel source is in great demand. There's no question. Whether it's wood pellets, chunk wood, propane, heating oil, kerosene, bio diesel. You need more than you did last year in most cases because it has been colder," said Cota.

The Department for Children and Families says that low-income households are among the hardest hit during the winter months, many struggling to afford heat, especially this winter.

"Sometimes that pressure can be overwhelming so when we add to it an especially challenging winter, that makes it especially difficult for people," said Dave Yacovone, the commissioner of the Vt. Department for Children and Families.

Vermont has fuel assistance programs for families in poverty, one being the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program or LIHEAP, a program that reaches around 28,000 homes each winter, according to DCF. An average family who qualifies for LIHEAP funding receives about $800 as supplemental money during the heating season.

DCF says there are some families who either do not qualify for assistance, or are in crisis that need additional help. And that number has grown exponentially this winter.

"The fact that we've had 600 or 700 more households knock on the door of government for help this year than last year, I think speaks to the winter," said Yacovone

The VFDA reports that the state has put an additional $8.1 million toward fuel assistance programs this winter, on top of federal funds. The window for crisis fuel assistance ends this Friday, just another reason for many families to hope for warmer weather soon.

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