FILE - Propane Tanks New Hampshire

Propane tanks outside a home in New Hampshire.

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire is increasing aid to residents through its home fuel assistance program amid a nationwide spike in energy costs.

The New Hampshire Department of Energy announced that it is increasing benefit amounts under its home fuel assistance program by 60% over last year for qualifying households in need of assistance keeping their homes heated this winter.

"Due to a nationwide spike in energy prices, we are taking steps to help those in need," Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement. "If you are struggling to pay for home heating costs or know someone who is, help is just a phone call away." 

Sununu said the expanded home heating aid will range from $253 to $2,520, up from $158 to $1,575 the previous winter. 

New Hampshire is expected to get more than $25 million in funding from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Under the state's Fuel Assistance Program, the amount of cash assistance is determined by a household's income, size and the type of fuel being used, among other factors. 

“Increased energy costs represent a heavy burden for all Granite Staters, especially for low-income households," Jared Chicoine, New Hampshire's interim energy commissioner, said in the statement. "This benefit increase will help make sure that low income Granite Staters can keep their homes warm this winter."

The price for natural gas and home heating oil is soaring amid supply chain issues and rising inflation, which is putting a squeeze on New England energy consumers as winter approaches.

The U.S. Department of Energy is warning Americans that they will likely pay “significantly” more to heat their homes and keep the lights turned on over the next several months. Meanwhile, weather forecasts call for a colder-than-normal winter.

Those who use natural gas to heat their homes are projected to pay an average of $746 this winter, up a third from last year, according to the Energy Information Administration. 

Meanwhile, those dependent on oil for heating will pay more than $1,800 – a more than 40% hike over 2020, the agency said.

Consumer advocates warn that the increased gas and heating oil prices will have a major impact on low-income households that already have trouble keeping up with expenses.

Nationally, fuel prices are projected to be 33.1% higher for heating oil, 42.2% higher for propane, and 14.4% higher for natural gas than last winter, according to federal agencies.

The skyrocketing energy costs have prompted congressional lawmakers to call on President Joe Biden to take short-term steps to ease the burden on consumers.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was among several lawmakers who recently wrote to Biden asking him to tap into the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve to help blunt the impact of rising costs.

“These predicted costs will have a very real effect on the ability of many New England families to keep their homes at a safe temperature this winter,” the lawmakers wrote. “No family should have to make the decision between paying their bill to keep their children warm, putting food on the table, and keeping the lights on.”