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Maine residents kept their homes at unsafe temperatures more than those in any other U.S. state over the past year, according to a census survey.
Around 8.3 percent of Maine households responded to a recent survey by saying they had kept homes at a temperature that felt unsafe or unhealthy almost every month over the past year. That represents close to 100,000 people. Only Delaware and Idaho had similar rates.
The finding was due to Maine’s cold climate and recently skyrocketing costs for utilities, including a 30 percent rise in electricity rates for most people beginning this year due to volatile energy markets. The state has also long been the most heavily reliant on heating oil, the price of which has gone up significantly in recent months to $4.85 a gallon as of April.
The number of people not heating or cooling their homes properly is closely associated with poverty. Rates of those frequently keeping their homes at unsafe temperatures were higher for those in households where the income was $35,000 or lower, with the numbers declining in each additional income bracket on the national level.
The nation-leading statistics are undoubtedly because of rising utility costs, said Andrew Blunt, interim director of Portland-based Our Power Maine, a group that is advocating for replacing the state’s major utilities with a consumer-owned utility.
“Culturally, Maine is a place where people keep it frugal in terms of heating and cooling,” Blunt said. “But with the energy costs that we’re facing, it’s just getting worse and worse.”
Multiple heating oil suppliers in the Portland metro area said they were unavailable or declined to comment on current demand.