Iowa City libraries, nonprofits aid residents with increasing heating bills

On Oct. 12, MidAmerican Energy announced that its heating prices would be going up. Chris Ackman from the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program said that the program is anticipating a busy season with its heat assistance program.


MidAmerican Energy Company is seen in Iowa City on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021.

Meg Doster, News Reporter

The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, an eastern Iowa organization with the goal of community improvement, is preparing for a busy winter season.

Winter is right around the corner, and along with it will likely come a steep rise in heating costs.

“We are anticipating a busier season,” said Chris Ackman, communications and volunteer manager for the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program. “There’s been a lot of talk in a lot of stories about potential prices rising for heat and gas.”

MidAmerican Energy, the biggest utility company in Iowa City, announced on Oct. 12 that its customers’ heating bills would be going up, citing that natural gas prices have doubled in the past year.

Hawkeye Area Community Action Program has an annual heating assistance program that starts on Oct. 1 for the elderly people and people with disabilities, and then heating assistance for the wintertime beginning on Nov. 1. The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program defines the winter season from November to April, the program’s website said.

Ackman said that the heating assistance program doesn’t get many applicants in November and December.

“When we really get to January and February, that’s when we can see temperatures drop below freezing,” Ackman said. “That’s where families or individuals who may have not had a really big need for heating assistance realize that they could benefit from it and that’s when they sign up.”

RELATED: DITV: How to prepare for severe weather – The Daily Iowan

According to the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, 10,094 people applied for energy assistance for the 2020-21 winter season. The average amount spent on households in that time was $465.

The Iowa City government has a program that helps Iowa City residents pay off their utility bills, but heating bills are not included.

“Our discount program is strictly for our city of Iowa City utility bills, which would be water, sewer, and garbage,” said Melissa Miller, the revenue and risk manager for the city of Iowa City.

Public libraries often allow people to come inside to warm up free of charge. The Iowa City government does not help with heating bills, but the Iowa City Public Library has programs in place to help people seeking shelter from the cold.

“We have served as a warming station,” said Sam Helmick, the Iowa City Public Library community and access services coordinator. “We’ve opened our doors a little earlier in order for folks to obtain warm cocoa and have Wi-Fi and electricity and heat access.”

Last year, the Iowa City Public Library was not open as a warming station for the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it still provided aid to places that were open. Helmick said that whether the library will once again be used as a warming station for this year is still being determined.

Helmick said that there is no one type of person or demographic that the Iowa City Public Library has served in the past when it comes to warming stations.

“That’s the thing about any sort of natural phenomenon, is that it really is a great equalizer,” Helmick said. “It’s a community issue, and so we see about everybody.”

Facebook Comments