Citing data from the Department of Health and Human Services, Salvador added that the disparity was particularly prevalent among “people who were below 50 percent of the poverty level.” She found that many in this group “were spending roughly 35 percent of their income toward home-energy bills.”
That’s not just in North Carolina. A map by Inside Energy’s Jordan Wirfs-Brock using census and federal energy data shows that energy expenditures breach 50 percent of household incomes in several parts of the country.
Many might see this and think, “Of course, energy costs constitute a bigger piece of a low-earning household’s budget. It’s a smaller pie.” And while that may be true, according to a report this spring by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the cost of heating or cooling for low-income households is also three times more expensive than for households at other income levels.
Salvador adds that government programs that offer relief for energy-related expenses are only a temporary solution to the problem. In North Carolina, the state set aside nearly $90 million to assist residents in covering their energy bills, a figure that seems large but actually didn’t go very far. “That $88 million helped roughly 89,000 people and did not help them for more than two months on average,” she says. “That’s truly less than 50 percent of those in need.”