Utility Bills on the Rise with Gas Prices

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Get ready to pay more to keep your home cool this summer.

Oil prices have caused utility rates to skyrocket and many families are having a hard time even keeping their lights on.

Tracy Vasquez and her family of seven have been doing everything to conserve energy in their Chicago home.

"We've been sleeping with the windows open at night," she explained. "I limit myself to doing only one load of laundry a day."

The family was shocked when their latest electricity bill doubled from $165 to $333, and the gas bill wasn't much better. It shot up from $111to $256.

"We don't have the extra income to compensate for that, so it's definitely scary," Vasquez said.

What's even scarier is they're not alone.

Skyrocketing food and gas prices are straining many household budgets, and utility companies are disconnecting those customers who fall behind on their bills.

"We're not making cold decisions (to just) cut you off because, in the short term, you need some help," said Kenneth Barker of Dominion Virginia Power. "We're working with customers to help them through some tough times."

All across the country shutoffs are at near record levels, and what's causing it? Utility companies are forced to pay higher fuel prices.

"We are going to have a fuel rate adjustment. That fuel rate increase is strictly a pass through. It's the rate we pay for fuel," Barker said.

In Pennsylvania, PPL Electric disconnected more than 7,000 customers through April of this year, an increase of nearly 170 percent.

For now, the Vasquez family will struggle with their payment this month, and fear they may soon join thousands of others who just can't afford the higher prices.

"How are we going to come up with the extra money to cover the basic needs? I'm not sure what we are going to do and that's scary," Vasquez said.

Disconnects for natural gas customers are up 27 percent for people in Chicago and 55 percent for customers in Detroit.

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Charlene Israel

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