NEW YORK, April 25 (UPI) -- Large numbers of Americans face the prospect of energy shutoffs during the coming months because of rising energy prices and stagnant wages, officials said.
Millions of U.S. consumers are behind on paying their utility bills following a winter in which many struggled to cover the increasing cost of heating their homes, The New York Times reported Friday, citing energy and utilities officials.
The cost of heating oil, propane and kerosene is the biggest problem, officials told the newspaper, but natural gas and electricity prices are also a problem for workers at the lower end of the income scale, who are also struggling with higher prices for food and gasoline.
New Hampshire officials said the state will issue grants under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to about 34,500 people this heating season -- a record number that is 5 percent higher than last year's total.
Mark Wolfe, director of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association, told the newspaper the most immediate challenge is to help people who are significantly behind in paying their gas and electric bills.
"Based on discussions with major utility companies around the country, we will see record numbers of families facing shutoffs," said Wolfe.