Homeowners seek help to pay heating bills

January 8, 2010 3:18:36 PM PST
This latest cold snap comes along with news that home heating costs are increasing. Many home owners are looking for help to pay their heating billsAs the temperature drops, Chicago-area residents struggle to stay warm in our homes. But for some, the real struggle may come next month when the gas bill arrives.

Some suburban residents are finding ways to deal with the cold and the anticipated high energy costs.

The Cartee family's 100-year-old Aurora home holds many memories. But what it wasn't doing was holding the heat.

"Very cold. I had two pairs of socks, robes, blankets," said Penny Cartee.

Penny Cartee is a widow who lost her job two years ago. She couldn't keep up with her heat bills until she got help.

"I feel like they're my guardian angels," said Penny.

Community contacts incorporated helps Cartee and hundreds of others get federal assistance with heating costs in Kane and Dekalb Counties.

The organization's associate director says 6,000 people have already requested help this winter.

"We've seen an increase of about 10 percent and we've seen we're also seeing different types of clients people who had lost their jobs who are now eligible for our programs," said Lowell Tosch, Community Contacts Inc.

Nicor expects the cold weather to increase natural gas costs and ultimately customers' bills.

"It's a volatile market. A great example of that is the first three months of this season lowest prices but the weather gets colder the demand increases therefore prices increase," said Annette Martinez, Nicor.

The energy company encourages customers to looks for ways to be energy efficient.

"If you have a higher efficiency furnace that makes a difference if you caulk your windows and maybe put plastic over them it's definitely going to make a difference," said Martinez.

Penny Cartee also got help weatherizing her home through community contacts. Between the heating assistance, new windows doors and insulation she can afford to stay warm and stay in her home.

"This is where my kids were raised. I don't want to leave. It's really made a big, big difference in my life," said Penny.

Cartee is getting financial help through the federal low income home energy assistance program or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP.

Nicor encourages customers challenged paying their bill to call to see what options are available to them. There are deferred payment plans and other grant programs.