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Some Washingtonians choosing between food and heat amid rising utility prices

On average, Americans are seeing the highest utility bills in over a decade.

SEATTLE — Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light have already announced increases for this winter and current freezing temperatures are compounding the problem for many in our area.

As the temperature dips outside, the decision to turn on the heat can be complicated. 

“It’s something that you definitely have to think about, heat, food or whatever you need,” said Ryan Carroll, who knows what it’s like to be cold. He was homeless for years.

"Because that's something you never want to experience again is being cold, especially like that is now, it's horrible," said Carroll.      

Now, in a house, he was getting slammed with high utility bills. 

“I needed energy, electric, I was way behind and they were able to pay it for me and they helped me a lot,” said Carroll.

“Basically, the main thing we hear from them is I’m cold or I’m out of oil or I just got a shutoff notice. Normally, it’s one of those three,” said Michael Nomura who is the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program Coordinator at Byrd Barr Place. 

Byrd Barr Place offers multiple services including a low-income home energy assistance program. Nomura says they normally fix utility issues within 24 hours.

“We definitely want to make sure that everyone has heat and is able to live in their own home,” he said.

Prices have gone up 18% on average in the United States, according to the National Energy Assistance Director’s Association. Nomura says there’s been a greater need coming out of the pandemic.

“The eviction moratorium ended and then the utility moratorium ended as well, so it all compounded at the same time,” said Nomura. 

As the temperatures drop tonight, Carroll says he’s grateful and encourages anyone in need to reach out for help.

“It’s good to feel better about my circumstances and things like that,” he said.

In the last couple of days, congress provided $6 billion in their latest omnibus spending bill to go directly to help families struggling with energy prices.

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