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Many Oklahomans Struggling To Stay Warm Due To High Propane Prices

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The Garrett's propane tank has been close to empty for weeks. The Garrett's propane tank has been close to empty for weeks.
Lacey Garrett and her family have been using infrared heaters to keep their home warm. Lacey Garrett and her family have been using infrared heaters to keep their home warm.
The Garrett's say the heaters are doing a good job keeping them warm in place of propane. The Garrett's say the heaters are doing a good job keeping them warm in place of propane.
Eligibility is based on an applicant's income and assets. Eligibility is based on an applicant's income and assets.
TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma -

It's been one of the coldest winters Oklahoma has had in recent years and to stay warm in Oklahoma, 400,000 families rely on propane.

However, the price for the fuel has gotten so high that some people simply can't afford to heat their homes. The need is so great that the federal government and even utility companies are pitching in to make sure Oklahomans aren't left in the cold.

1/29/14 Related Story: Propane Shortages Prompting State Officials To Act

Nobody in the Garrett household is happy about the price of propane, not even 6-month-old Copper. Copper's mom, Lacey, stays at home with him during the day, while dad is away at work.

"We're a single income family, ya know. We definitely have to watch where our money's going," Garrett said.

The young couple moved to the home just south of Tahlequah about a year ago, making the change from a fairly predictable electric heating bill, to propane.

"Living out here with propane," said Garrett, "you're good for a few months and then you have to fill up all at once, so it kind of hits you like a ton of bricks.

The 250 gallon propane tank outside Garrett's home is sitting right around empty. It's been that way for weeks for one reason and one reason only, the cost to fill up, she said, has doubled in the past month.

"We just don't wanna spend the $4.50 a gallon to fill up," Garrett said.

So, instead of using propane to heat their home, the Garrett's have two infrared heaters, one for the living room and one for the bedroom.

Garrett said some areas of the house do get a little drafty, but for the most part, she has no complaints.

"They're doing the job, keeping him warm, that's our primary concern," said Garrett.

Now the state is stepping in to bring relief. The federal government gave $4 million to help supplement Oklahoma's Energy Crisis Assistance Program. Utility companies donated an additional $600,000.

Starting Tuesday, low-income propane users can apply for assistance through DHS.

While Garrett doesn't qualify, she knows it's necessary for those who truly have no other way to stay warm.

"We can, if we had to, fill up," Garrett said. "But it's just really scary for people who solely rely on propane to cook, to heat their house, to do all that.

Governor Fallin has ordered DHS to expedite all applications for assistance from families who use propane as their source of heat. Fallin's order also asks the attorney general to continue investigating reports of price gouging.

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