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Making Sure 'Home is Where the Heat is' This Holiday

December 17, 2007

Albuquerque, NM - The weather outside is frightful, and home heating bills are even worse. It's been a chilly and snowy December in New Mexico that, combined with high energy prices, has thousands of families struggling to pay utility bills.

Jami Porter-Lara with Community Action New Mexico says the odds are good that some of your friends and neighbors are having to make tough decisions this holiday season.

"About one in five New Mexico families have unaffordable heating bills, so about 200,000 households actually are making choices between heating and eating this year."

Utility companies are required to provide information about how to apply for energy assistance, and there are many community organziations that can help. Porter-Lara notes some recent confusion over new energy assistance rules in the state, but says the bottom line for this winter is that any household making less than 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines can get help.

"Anyone who meets that income qualification cannot be disconnected from utility service, regardless of whether or not they had a past due balance as of November 15th."

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with heating bills, you can start by calling 1-800-648-7167.

Eric Mack/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NM