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New Year Sees Thousands in the NM Cold

December 26, 2006

Santa Fe, NM - It has been an especially cold December across New Mexico for thousands of families who struggle to cover soaring heating bills on low wages.

According to Jami Porter-Lara with Community Action New Mexico, there are an estimated 200,000 households eligible for public assistance, but available funds only cover about 13 percent of the overall need.

"There's a huge percentage of families this winter that are going to be choosing between eating and heating or keeping the lights on because the energy bill takes up such a large percentage of the budget."

Despite being one of the poorest states in the nation, Porter-Lara explains New Mexico receives less federal energy assistance than many others. She agrees with proponents of using oil and gas revenues in the state to fund energy assistance programs for those hardest hit by the rising prices. But, she adds that the best way to keep New Mexico families warm is through long-term solutions.

"It's important to be making investments in helping low-income people to weatherize their houses and moving toward changing building codes so that all housing is as efficient as possible."

Next month, her organization will seek another solution at the legislature in hopes of lawmakers passing a bill that would allow utilities to create discounted rate structures that help lower-income families.

To apply for energy assistance, call your local utility or the state Human Services Department at 1-800-283-4465.

An energy assistance application is also online at www.hsd.state.nm.us.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM