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Power bills high, energy assistance available

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 05:00:07 PM MST
Updated On: Dec 05 2013 10:31:15 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Skyrocketing heat bills are overwhelming many families in this frigid weather.

Stories like choosing between buying food or heating homes are filling our Facebook page.

NBC Montana spent the day digging into where these families can turn.

For many Montanans a freezing cold winter means monthly headaches over high heating costs.  

We received several viewer comments from people who say they are struggling to pay their heat bill.

"Our heating bill is $270 a month for a 2 bedroom. We have small children that need 2-3 blankets at night to stay warm." wrote one viewer.

"My electric bill is through the roof, I can’t afford anything because of it!" wrote another.

LIEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) eligibility tech Lisa Schindler tells us many people shy away from energy assistance programs because they believe others may need the help more.
 
“We want to urge people who don't want to take money from someone else, it's not that kind of a situation, there is funding for the program and it's there so please use it,” says Schindler.  

She says last year in Mineral, Ravalli and Missoula counties nearly 4,800 residents signed up for assistance.

We called Flathead Electric Co-op and learned last year in Flathead, Lake, Lincoln and Sanders counties nearly 3,600 households took advantage of energy assistance.

“With the financial assistance maybe it makes the winter months a little easier to budget for,” says Schindler.  

We spoke with organizers at the LIEAP office on South Higgins in Missoula and they tell us so far this year nearly 2,000 Mineral, Ravalli and Missoula County residents have signed up for energy assistance programs; however, they tell us it is peak season so it's better to get your application in sooner than later.

“If the bill this month is obviously going to be extremely high with this cold front, then apply right now because a month later when your bill comes out you may find yourself in a situation that there's no way you're going to be able to pay that bill,” warns Schindler.   

Eligibility for assistance is based on family size, income and heating source.  There are LIEAP offices in Polson, Kalispell, Libby and Missoula.

To access LIEAP application forms, click here.

If you live in Flathead, Sanders, Lincoln or Lake County, click here for LIEAP office locations and contact information; there are offices in both Kalispell and Libby.  
 
There is a LIEAP office in Polson at 110 Main St. Suite A; (406) 883-3470.

If you live in Mineral, Ravalli or Missoula County, click here for LIEAP office location and contact information.