Americans Are Behind $22 Billion on Utility Bills — How To Get Help if You’re Struggling

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Cash-strapped Americans are feeling the pinch as the nation experiences the strongest pace of inflation in four decades, especially when it comes to energy bills.

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May’s Consumer Price Index increased 8.6% annually with the energy index jumping 34.6% over the last year, the largest 12-month increase since Sept. 2005. According to CNBC Select, one in five households reported they could not pay their utility bill in full or at least one month in the last year in a U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey.

The average American energy debt is roughly $1,000, according to Mark Wolfe, the executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), and Americans’ total utility debt is now around $22 billion.

Utility debt has pushed some states and low-income assistance agencies to take action to help people avoid losing power.

According to Wolfe, there is still money left over from the economic stimulus packages for Americans struggling to pay their utility bills.

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If you’re unable to pay your utility bills, Select reported that you can reach out to your local NEADA contact for information on how to qualify and contact your local LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) office for assistance.

LIHEAP is a federal program that helps low-income families with home energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization and energy-related home repairs.

You can also call your utility company to see if you can set up a payment plan or find out if there are any forgiveness programs available. Some states are implementing programs to forgive utility debt, so make sure to check your state’s available programs.

Select also noted that bill negotiation services may also be an option. These services will attempt to work with your utility companies to lower what you owe.

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About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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