Gladys is a homeowner living in the Hermosa neighborhood of Chicago. She lives in a frame construction style house that was built in 1907 with her daughter, who now has three children of her own. Since she’s retired, Gladys’s fixed income from her social security and pension has to cover all her costs. When costs like Medicare go up, it greatly impacts people like Gladys. From 2021 to 2022, Medicare premiums went up a whopping 14.5%, which is one of the largest increases in the history of the program. In addition to rising prices, unexpected events can also be costly – especially when it comes to home maintenance. Beyond the unexpected maintenance costs following a fire or a flood, people living in older homes like Gladys’s often see much higher utility bills than newer homes. In fact, homes that were built before 1950 and use natural gas spend an average of 27% more on space heating than those built after 1980. And for most people, like Gladys, a natural gas bill is not their only utility bill.
Mental Wellness and Unaffordable Utility Bills
Like so many Americans, Gladys has felt the sting of rising prices and it has greatly impacted her financial wellness. The stress that comes from unaffordable energy bills can greatly impact a person’s mental health. As Gladys and her daughter point out, nobody feels good when they don’t have any money. Research shows strong correlations between families experiencing poverty and mental health concerns. And while utility bill and energy assistance programs exist, finding the right program can often be a challenge in itself. Sometimes families struggling to get by are not sure where to even go for help. Gladys’s daughter encouraged her to start looking for assistance when her bills started getting out of control.