Heat or Food?
Heating bills are expected to increase by as much as 70 percent this Winter. High gas prices are already forcing people like Twila Yeazal, a 67-year-old woman I met in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to spend less on food. "You either gotta let your medicine go, your gas go or your utilities or your food. I've been letting food go and going to churches to get food. That's the only way we can make it," she said.
The Senate yesterday rejected a bill to increase funding for the federal home heating program:
Senators voted, 54 to 43, in favor of a proposal to boost the fiscal 2006 budget for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to $5.1 billion from $2.2 billion. But that was six votes short of the 60-vote majority needed to approve new spending not coupled with equivalent spending cuts.
Northern senators who pushed for increased spending for the program, led by Senators Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, argued that the surge in fuel costs will be crippling to low-income families.
People could have to ''choose between keeping the heat on, putting food on the table, or buying much needed prescription drugs," Collins said. ''No family should need to make such terrible choices."
Reed cited estimates that those who heat their homes with fuel oil will need $1,600 this winter, up $380, while the cost of using natural gas for heating could rise to $1,400.