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U.S. House passes a stopgap government funding bill; the Omicron variant is found in Minnesota; Biden administration revives the "Remain in Mexico" policy; and the Bidens light the National Christmas Tree.

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Seniors in non-urban areas struggle with hunger disproportionately; rural communities make a push for federal money; and Planned Parenthood takes a case to the Montana Supreme Court.

North Dakotans Urged to Plan for Higher Heating Bills

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Thursday, November 4, 2021   

BISMARCK, N.D. -- A recent dip in temperatures likely prompted many North Dakotans to start cranking up the heat.

With natural-gas prices expected to be much higher this season, customers are advised to make a plan so that monthly bills won't sink their budget. Montana-Dakota Utilities (MDU) said over the next five months, its customers could end up paying an additional $185 for their heating expenses.

Mark Hanson, spokesperson for MDU, urged residents to work with them to avoid dramatic swings in their monthly bill. He said they want to protect customers, not leave them in the cold.

"During cold winter months, a customer's not going to be disconnected," Hanson explained. "We're not gonna disconnect someone if it's 20 below out. "

But he added if a customer falls behind and doesn't reach out, there is a disconnection risk after the winter season.

In the meantime, he suggested looking into programs such as Balanced Billing to keep monthly costs more stable. The utility also can put households in touch with those who carry out the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Home weatherization programs also are suggested, as are tips such as letting more sunlight in during the day, while closing blinds and drapes at night.

Josh Askvig, North Dakota state director for AARP, said the price surge added to many other cost-of-living headaches North Dakotans are juggling right now.

"Utility rates are an essential pocketbook issue for North Dakota residents, especially those 50-plus," Askvig pointed out. "When you have a projected price increase that is about 50% higher than last year across the country, the winter heating season is going to be a challenge."

To help soften the blow, MDU said it built up some of its winter storage while prices were lower this year, but utility officials warn there's still a lot of price volatility for the commodity.

Throughout November, MDU and AARP will host four Facebook live events to better explain the situation and options for customers.

Disclosure: AARP North Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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