SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) –South Dakota families can add another bill to the list of rising costs; two of the state’s largest utility providers recently implemented new increases.
The average Xcel energy customer saw a 19.75 percent interim rate increase starting on January 1st and MidAmerican settled on a final increase of 5.4 percent for customers that took effect April 1st.
“The combination is really challenging,” Kayla Tronvold, the Development Manager at The Community Outreach said.
Over the past year, inflation has impacted nearly every area of a family’s monthly expenses.
“With utilities, with rent, with groceries, every person has felt that impact in some way,” Nathan Rygh, the Genesis Program Manager at the Community Outreach said.
Now utilities are catching up for the first time in eight years across South Dakota.
While Xcel engery’s proposed 19.75 increase still needs approval from the state to become permanent, the company says the interim increase implemented on January 1st has the typical residential customer using 750 kWh per month paying nearly $20 more per month.
“The families and individuals I’m working with, they’re living paycheck to paycheck, even just a small increase in utilities can be oh no, what are we going to do now?” Rygh said.
The Community Outreach helps families with financial mentoring through the Genesis Program but also provides emergency assistance for utilities and rent.
“We’ve heard from multiple clients with various utility companies that they’ve seen an increase in their monthly bills, so that has been a challenge for people,” Tronvold said.
Trying to budget for this variable expense can be one of the hardest parts of utility increases for families.
“The weather impacts that as well as lifestyle, so many factors come into play as to what that utility charge is going to be at the end of the month so it’s really hard to predict,” Tronvold siad.
The Genesis Program suggests working with your utility company to set up a budget billing plan to help even out your monthly expenses all year.
“They look at overall usage for your utilities for the year and give you a close monthly option for that amount,” Rygh said.
That way your bill will stay the same regardless of what you’re using. Rygh says if you try to limit your usage even a little, it can help cut down your bill all year. But even then, The Community Outreach knows plenty of families are still struggling to keep up with all of the increases.
“Do we keep our gas on, or do we try to adapt and live a lifestyle without gas? We’ve seen clients come in who have made that choice of I’m going to cut this utility to be able to try to pay the rest of my bills on time,” Tronvold said.
If you or someone you know is struggling to keep up with their utility bill, there are several places to turn for help. Along with The Community Outreach, you can also reach out to your county human services office, the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, or Inter-lakes Community Action (ICAP). Tronvold says all of these agencies are able to help, but there are different qualifications for each program, so reach out.