Gas prices are holding steady despite a relentless heat wave sweeping across the U.S.. As temperatures soar, many households are cranking up their air conditioners, resulting in higher utility bills. Low-income residents, who rely on programs designed for winter heating assistance, struggle to cope with the increased summertime demand for electricity. If you’re struggling to keep up with increased costs due to the heat wave, you could consider a store credit card. If you utilize an intro APR offer on purchases, you could make payments over time without accruing interest, so you can get everything you need to stay cool.

How the heat wave impacts consumers

While natural gas prices have fallen about 60% since the previous summer due to a mild winter, high electricity demand in recent weeks has offset these savings. The limited ability of renewables, like wind turbines and solar energy, to contribute to the grid during heat waves has further exacerbated the situation. As a result, U.S. consumers are expected to face utility bills nearly 12% higher this summer than last year.

The impacts of this ongoing heat wave are not limited to increased energy costs. Relief organizations in states unaccustomed to widespread air-conditioning use are now grappling with a surge in demand for bill payment assistance. The prolonged high temperatures have prompted some assistance programs to transition to year-round operations while others struggle with funding allocations.

The current funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), designed to help Americans heat their homes, is proving inadequate for the growing demand during both summer and winter. LIHEAP is funded with $6.1 billion through September, with the House Appropriations Committee recently approving $4.1 billion in funding for the following year, far below the requested $9 billion.

The mismatch between available funds and increasing demand is leading to difficult decisions for administrators, who may have to sacrifice heating assistance in winter to meet summer demands. Only 19 states and Washington, D.C., ban utility shutoffs during the summer, while more than 40 ban them during winter, highlighting the challenges low-income households face in maintaining access to essential utilities.

While some states have managed to increase cooling allotments for low-income families with federal assistance, the overall federal policies governing LIHEAP have not adapted adequately to the changing realities of climate change. The effects of climate change are making residents in vulnerable situations more reliant on energy assistance programs, necessitating a reconsideration of how relief money is allocated.

Bottom line

Despite the benefits of gas credit cards in the form of lower gas prices, the ongoing extreme heat wave in the U.S. results in higher utility bills for many households. Low-income residents, in particular, struggle to cover their energy costs due to increased air conditioning use. As climate change continues to shape weather patterns, it is evident that energy assistance programs like LIHEAP need to be reevaluated and adequately funded to provide relief for those facing the impacts of extreme temperatures throughout the year.

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