Energy Costs Are Forcing Drastic Choices

Low-income families are cutting back on food and medicine to pay for fuel.

Robert Coates delivers home heating oil in New York City.

Robert Coates delivers home heating oil in New York City.

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At the local level, energy officials said the need has never been greater. Timothy Bruer, executive director of Energy Services Inc., which administers the Federal Home Energy Assistance Program in Wisconsin, said people with emergency needs are coming forth in record numbers this year. While Energy Services received an average of 200 calls a day for emergency energy assistance last year, the organization gets 600 calls per day now. "They've been taking away from food, medical, and basic survival needs, and there's nothing to take from anymore," Bruer said. "Heat and power, which is a basic necessity, has become an unaffordable luxury for literally millions of Americans throughout the country."