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As temps drop in Michiana, need for energy assistance goes up

As the temperatures continue to drop, folks in Michiana are keeping an eye on their heating bills.

Because of a mild 2015 and a rising economy those in need of assistance in paying their energy bills, so far this year, is lower than normal.

Ingrid Simmons is the Energy Assistance Program Director at REAL Services.

“We help families at or below 150 percent of the poverty guideline,” said Simmons.

For a household of four, that would equate to around $36,000 per year.

Between the winter months of November and May REAL services helps, on average, about 8,500 families spread across five counties.

A big question that everyone seems to ask: Is it against the law in Indiana or Michigan to shut off your utilities in the winter?

The Indiana government website says it is, with certain stipulations.

“They still accumulate utilities during those months but they won’t shut off,” said Simmons.

To save on energy costs in the winter months, one of the things experts say you should do is lower your thermostat.

“When you leave your house, turn the temperature down on the furnace; find small way to save energy. Maybe turn your water heater down,” said Simmons.

Simmons says even if you are struggling to pay the bills this winter and need assistance, it’s still a good idea to pay something rather than nothing at all.

“Energy assistance is not meant to cover the whole winter bills. It really is a portion of the winter bills,” said Simmons.

If you need assistance, you can apply on the REAL Services website by clicking here:

https://www.realservices.org/_wp/index.php/community-services/energy-assistance/

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