Soaring home heating prices have many Vermonters feeling the pinch

Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 5:50 PM EST
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - Many Vermonters are struggling with home heating costs. Soaring fuel prices are hitting everyone’s wallet, but it’s especially challenging for lower-income residents who don’t qualify for heating assistance.

Matthew Lavoy lives in a group home in Barre. His rent recently went up $100, in part, because of increased home heating prices.

“It may not seem like much to a lot of people, but to me, $100 is a third of my weekly income,” Lavoy said.

The war in Ukraine, global supply chain issues and inflation have sent home heating prices soaring.

In some areas of Vermont, home heating oil has spiked to around $5 a gallon.

That’s just one pressure on families.

“Supply chain issues, prices of everything, people’s food, even with the Three Squares benefits. They are here for the food shelf as well as the energy,” said Sue Rossi, the energy and outreach manager at Capstone Community Action.

The state provides assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP. This fall, Vermont’s congressional delegation secured $27 million for the program, and state lawmakers recently signed off on another $5 million in aid to get Vermonters through the winter. But that fuel assistance is based on federal poverty levels, and in Vermont, the cutoff is low.

“There are a lot of new people who are coming through our doors that have never asked for help because they are over income for the fuel assistance through the state,” Rossi said.

Rossi says if you work 40 hours a week and make more than $12.15 an hour, you are not eligible.

Community action agencies do provide some relief for those who don’t qualify for LIHEAP.

Rossi also says she is assisting more retired seniors who are working jobs to stay ahead of inflation.

“It’s a cycle where they are not able to live on what Social Security has provided and then they’re out of other programs because they are making too much. This year, that’s been a common theme,” Rossi said.

Locals I spoke with in Barre say some local fuel companies are also trying to work with Vermonters by filling their tank now and letting them pay later this year when home heating won’t be as big of a concern.