CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) – As the weather gets colder and inflation gets higher, more West Virginians are struggling with their utility bills.

According to a recent study by Lending Tree, in the last 12 months, 42% of households in West Virginia have given up other necessities like food and medicine in order to pay their energy bill. The study also reported that more than 30% of West Virginians were unable to pay part of their energy bill in the past year—the highest rate in the country.

Nationwide, 20.8% said that they have kept their home at a temperature that felt unsafe or unhealthy because of high utility costs. While we are thinking mostly about heating bills now that it’s November, states that had the hottest summers seemed to struggle the most to keep their bills paid, and West Virginia was one of the worst.

How to get help

There are several programs that West Virginians can turn to for energy assistance. In West Virginia, the West Virginia Homeowners Rescue Program offers assistance to people who experienced a pandemic-related hardship. Executive director of the WV Housing Development Fund Erica Boggess said, “Any homeowner who is even a month behind in their utilities should apply for tax-free assistance so we can catch them up on those bills before winter comes.”

Nationwide, the Biden Administration announced on Wednesday that $4.5 billion has been allocated to help low-income families pay for their utility bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Families seeking aid from LIHEAP can learn more and apply for assistance with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Availability is based on income, family size or the availability of resources. West Virginia’s U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito announced Thursday that $38,680,155 of the 2023 LIHEAP funding will benefit West Virginians.