from the NEW MEXICO NEWS CONNECTION - A statewide news service for New Mexico
Albuquerque - Many families will be sitting down to give thanks this week for the simple things like a warm home. For those having trouble paying home heating bills, help is available. During these tough economic times, many New Mexico families will be giving thanks this week for things normally taken for granted, like keeping the house warm this winter. And for families struggling to pay those home heating bills, more help is available this year.
Congress recently authorized additional funding for the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP.) Kira Jones, and energy leader with Community Action New Mexico says that means low-income families could be eligible for a one-time emergency payment of as much as three-hundred dollars, "That can be applied toward electricity, natural gas, propane, firewood or even wood pellet bills for people who have pellet stoves in more rural areas." To receive the emergency payment, households must meet income eligibility requirements and complete an application. Jones points out that those not eligible may still be able to get help from local churches, utilities or charities like the Salvation Army. Help to weatherize homes and improve energy efficiency is also available ... from the state Mortgage Finance Authority's Energy Smart program.
Jones says households have the right to negotiate a payment plan with their utility, "If it's a matter of paying ten dollars a month or twenty dollars a month for twelve months or even eighteen months, then that's what people need to propose." She says if people run into trouble negotiating with their utility, they can file a complaint with the Public Regulation Commission. She also notes that many low-income households are protected by a winter shut-off moratorium in effect until March.
Visit Community Action New Mexico at http://www.communityactionnewmexico.org/energy.html .