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Winter heat prices expected to rise

NIPSCO projects a $168 increase in customer’s heating bills

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Rising heat- NIPSCO estimates customers will pay $168 more in heating costs this winter.

Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) wants customers to know they might see a significant rise in their heating costs this winter.

“We are looking at approximately an estimated $168 difference spread out over the winter heating season, which runs from Nov. 1 through the end of March,” Wendy Lussier, NIPSCO communications, said.

“This is a projection we like to do annually because we want to make sure that our customers are able to plan and prepare for their household budgets.”

A press release distributed by NIPSCO showed last year’s winter bill estimate at $422. This year, NIPSCO is projecting that customers will pay about $590 over the same period.

Lussier said natural gas costs have been low for the past few years, but current market prices are rising across the board. She said the price of natural gas is nearing what it was during the winter between 2014 and 2015, which was an expensive year for heat.

Currently, natural gas prices are 92 percent higher than what they were last winter. There is also less gas stored, which will contribute to rising heat costs over the coming months. Lussier said these trends are global, so the situation is not specific to the Midwest.

“We’re hopeful that the storage balances will catch up and that will help with some of the constrictions right now on the supply,” Lussier said. She said NIPSCO has recommendations for customers who are concerned about their heating bills.

“We have a free service offered to all NIPSCO customers called budget plan, and that helps them spread out their gas costs more evenly across the entire year,” Lussier said. “We would recommend that they go to NIPSCO.com or call our customer care center at 1 (800) 464-7726.”

NIPSCO also offers tips to customers like setting their thermostats to 65 degrees, or even a few degrees lower than normal. Lussier said that tends to have a big impact on reducing people’s heating bills. She also said programmable thermostats help people who may be traveling manage the temperature in their home while they are away.

Additionally, Lussier recommends people check their doors and windows for any cracks where cold air might come through and check filters in their heating systems.

Anyone who needs help with their heating bills this winter have a host of resources available. Lussier said there are plenty of organizations that offer help, and many options can be found at NIPSCO.com/assistance.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority also has an initiative called the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that helps qualifying residents pay their bills. Applications for the program can be found on the IN.gov website.

“Another thing I would stress is that between Dec. 1 and March 15, natural gas providers in Indiana never disconnect service to customers who are enrolled in state heat programs and become delinquent in their heat bills,” Lussier said. “That’s important to know as an additional protection.”

Lussier said regardless of income, NIPSCO will work with customers who get behind in their bills and need to work out a payment plan.

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“The best thing to do is call NIPSCO at the beginning when you realize something like this is happening to you so we can be there to assist, but there are a lot of ways that customers can get help.”

Foster acquired Reserve No. 6 in 1844, they donated a 40-acre portion on the north side of Wildcat Creek to be the unincorporated county seat of Indiana’s last-named county. Trivia tidbit: the south boundary (dotted line on the map above the East 85.25 length notation) runs along today’s Virginia Avenue, which originally was named Reserve Avenue.

People who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine could be eligible for a booster shot. The CDC is currently recommending booster shots for people who received their second dose at least six months ago and have certain health conditions.

Jennifer Sexton, public health nursing manager for the Howard County Health Department, said the county is following the CDC’s recommendations on booster shots, and there is a lot of information to share.

The CDC recommends a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine only for those who have had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine previously. There is no information about the effectiveness of mixing and matching the vaccines, so researchers are uncertain how well people would be protected.

Other qualifying factors to get a booster dose include anyone over 65 years old, people 18 or older who are in long-term care, and anyone between 18 and 64 years old who has conditions like cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung diseases like COPD or asthma, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, dementia or other neurological diseases, Type 1 or 2 diabetes, heart diseases, HIV, sickle cell disease, or liver disease.

Sexton said anyone in the 18 to 64 year age range who is obese, overweight, pregnant, a current or previous smoker, uses substances, has had a stroke, or is immunocompromised is also eligible to receive a booster shot.

Another group eligible for booster vaccinations are people who live or work in places where they are at increased risk of transmission. This includes people who work in COVID testing centers or hospitals and people living in prisons, homeless shelters, and domestic violence shelters.

“That pretty much covers everyone,” Sexton said. “I think we have enough people disinterested in the vaccine that supply won’t be a problem.”

Sexton said it is also important to distinguish the difference between additional doses of the vaccine and booster shots. While they are all the exact same vaccine and dosage, Sexton said many people undergoing cancer treatment get additional doses because their bodies do not respond to vaccines as well. The main difference is timing and purpose.

George Mast, communications manager at Community Howard Regional Health, said Howard Community is not currently operating a vaccine clinic at the hospital but is continuing to monitor access to the vaccines in the county and listen to CDC guidance.

“Community Health Network has advised its employees of the recent guidance from the CDC regarding the Pfizer booster shot. The Indiana Department of Health also supports this CDC guidance. Under the guidance from the CDC, health care workers may receive the booster shot,” Mast said. “While Community has advised employees of this guidance, it is not requiring employees to receive a booster.”

Sexton said she suspects authorization for a Moderna booster vaccine is not far behind, and she hopes people who are eligible will receive the booster shots. She recommends that anyone interested in scheduling a booster or learning more visit ourshot.in.gov.

“We’d really like to see people who are eligible get these done,” Sexton said.