The topic of one of the Post-Gazette's editorials this morning was increased funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
LIHEAP provides grants to help pay heating bills and to address emergencies such as broken furnaces or impending service shutoffs. The Bush administration's decision to boost funding for the program came just in time.
This morning, The Associated Press reported that applications for the help already are running ahead of last year's levels. The report said, in part:
"From January to October, more than 274,000 gas and electric customers had their service shut off by their utilities - a 20 percent leap from the first 10 months of 2007, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
"About 185,000 of those customers have had their service restored. That figure is 22 percent above the same period a year ago, but a higher number overall remain without service as temperatures plunge."
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Welfare said that, as of Nov. 15, the state already had 15 percent more applications than in the same period last year.
Customers who need assistance should start by contacting their utility company. For Dominion Peoples, call 1-800-400-9276; for Equitable Gas, 1-800-644-8090; for Columbia Gas, 1-800-272-2714. There's lots of information available through the state, too.