BPU offers cold weather tips to prevent frozen pipes

The Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Public Utilities (BPU) reminds homeowners of steps to take to prevent water damage from frozen and burst pipes, which can bring costly plumbing repairs and replacement fees along with headaches and unexpected expense for homeowners.

“We are facing frigid temps across the metro, which can cause pipes in vulnerable areas to freeze and burst, resulting in costly damage,” said David Mehlhaff, BPU’s chief communications officer. “By simply running a pencil-thin stream of water overnight, customers can avoid frozen pipes.”

Mehlhaff said doing this during these frigid temps could solely use about two gallons of water an evening, which prices a lot lower than a frozen or burst pipe.

BPU encourages residents to take the following precautions when temperatures are consistently at or below freezing:

· Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to keep pipes from freezing. The cost of the extra water is low compared to the cost to repair a broken pipe. BPU also encourages customers to capture the water for wise water use. The water can be used to water indoor plants and more.

· Open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warmer room temperatures to help keep them from freezing.

· Eliminate sources of cold air near water lines by repairing broken windows, insulating walls, closing off crawl spaces and eliminating drafts near doors.

· Know the location of your main water shut-off valve. If a pipe freezes or bursts, shut the water off immediately.

· Protect your pipes. Wrap exposed pipes with insulation or use electrical heat tracing wire; newspaper or fabric might also work.

If your pipes freeze:

· Shut off the water immediately. Do not attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off. Freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints.

· Apply heat to the frozen pipe by warming the air around it, or by applying heat directly to a pipe. You can use a hair dryer, space heater or hot water. Be sure not to leave space heaters unattended, and avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.

· Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water back on slowly and check for cracks and leaks.

When you are away:

· Have a friend, relative or neighbor regularly check your property to ensure that the heat is working and the pipes have not frozen.

BPU also advises that sub-freezing temperatures can cause aging water mains to break and cause water to cover roadways. If you see a leak, your water service is disrupted, or you experience low pressure, contact the company’s Water Issues Line at 913-573-9622 to report an emergency.

  • Information from BPU

Low-income energy assistance program available to help Kansas residents with heating bills

A perfect storm of cold weather and expensive energy costs is headed to Kansas households heating bills this winter.

National gas costs are projected to rise by 30 percent while energy costs are expected to be six percent higher, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Kansas Corporation Commission.

They explain that high natural gas and energy usage from Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, high demands on natural gas from heat waves this summer, energy shortages in Europe and Asia, and declining domestic production, all combined will cause energy and natural gas costs to be higher than normal this winter.

“This strain on already stressed family financial situations is cause for concern,” said DCF Secretary Laura Howard. “The Kansas Department for Children and Families is ready to assist Kansans with the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP).”

LIEAP provides an annual benefit to help qualifying households pay winter heating bills. Persons with disabilities, older adults and families with children are the primary groups assisted.

Applications for the program will be accepted beginning Monday, Jan. 3. In 2021, 38,750 households received an average benefit of $1,389, an increase from 2020 when about 34,000 households received an average benefit of $960.

To qualify, applicants must be responsible for direct payment of their heating bills. Income eligibility requirements are set at 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The level of benefit varies according to household income, number of people living in the home, type of residence, type of heating fuel and utility rates.
Applicants need to have made payments on their heating bill two out of the last three months. Those payments must be equal to or exceed $80 or the total balance due on their energy bills, whichever is less.

Applications for the program have been mailed to households that received energy assistance last year. LIEAP applications are also available at local DCF offices and through partnering agencies starting Jan. 3. They can be requested by calling 1-800-432-0043. To apply online, visit https://cssp.kees.ks.gov/apspssp/sspNonMed.portal. For more information, visit http://www.dcf.ks.gov/services/ees/Pages/EnergyAssistance.aspx.

Applications will be accepted from Jan. 3 to 5 p.m. March 31.

Income eligibility determination:

Funding for the Low Income Energy Assistance program is provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Community Service through the Federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Kansas governor plans to ‘axe’ sales tax on food, joins AG in urging legislative action

by Noah Taborda, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says she plans to introduce legislation in January to exempt food from the state sales tax, joining Attorney General Derek Schmidt in urging GOP leaders to take action on the issue.

Kelly, a Democrat running for re-election, said her plan will “axe” the sales tax on groceries. Schmidt, the favorite to receive the Republican nomination for governor in next year’s election, sent a letter last week to legislative leaders asking to either eliminate or significantly reduce the same tax.

The governor has supported efforts to reduce the tax burden on food during past sessions, including a plan that would have re-instated a tax rebate for low-income families. Her office planned the Monday announcement before Schmidt’s campaign announced his letter on Friday.

“For too long, Kansans have been paying more for groceries than people in almost every other state,” Kelly said. “This legislation will save the average Kansas family $500 or more a year on their grocery bill, and thanks to the fiscally responsible decisions we made before and during the pandemic, we can cut the food sales tax and keep Kansas’ budget intact.”

Under Kelly’s proposal, a family of four is estimated to save $500 on their grocery bill. Kelly estimated the state’s loss of revenue to be $450 million.

Kansas is one of seven states with a full tax on groceries, and the state rate of 6.5% is the second highest in the country. At least 37 states levy no sales tax on groceries and six more have reduced grocery taxes.

Grocery prices have been rising across the country with the latest consumer price index showing a 5.4% increase in prices from September 2020 to September 2021.

“If Kansas is to thrive and grow, our public policies must attract, retain and support working families,” Schmidt wrote in the letter to Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe. “Our state must be an affordable place to live, work and raise a family. In light of the state’s current budget situation, carefully constructed tax relief that benefits all Kansans by eliminating or at least significantly reducing the sales tax on groceries is possible, necessary and overdue.”

Schmidt was critical of Kelly for vetoing a 2019 bill that included a one-cent reduction in the sales tax on groceries, among other tax reforms. In vetoing the bill, Kelly argued it would have set the state back to former Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policies by predominantly providing relief to large, multinational corporations who hoped to evade paying state income taxes on overseas profits.

Kelly said Monday any food sales tax cut measure would need to arrive on her desk without other provisions tacked on.

“I am glad that Derek Schmidt supports our plan to eliminate the sales tax on food,” said House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita. “Hopefully the Speaker of the House and Senate President will pass it without bogging it down with excessive additional tax cuts for the rich.”

The Kansas Democratic Party highlighted Schmidt’s record of supporting sales tax increases while in the Legislature. In 2002, he voted for a package that included an increase in sales tax from 4.9% to 5.3%. In 2005, he voted to allow an increase in local sales tax.

“Despite what Derek Schmidt might say today, he can’t run from his history of raising taxes on Kansas families that goes back decades,” said KDP spokesperson Emma O’Brien. “Derek Schmidt has a track record of looking out for himself and his special interest donors, not Kansas families and Main Street small businesses. His sudden change of heart is nothing more than a bad-faith attempt to play politics, and Kansans can see right through it. Kansans don’t want empty words, they want action, and Derek Schmidt can’t deliver.”

Kansas Action for Children President John Wilson praised the timing of the governor’s announcement as the state experiences strong revenues. He said sales tax worsens income inequality because low-income people must pay a higher share of their income on basic needs like groceries.

An estimated 21% of children younger than 19 are living below the federal poverty level, Wilson said, and ending the food sales tax could reduce food insecurity among this group.

“Kansans have experienced one of the highest sales taxes on food in the country for years, a consequence of previous poor state tax policy,” Wilson said. “Now that Kansas has recovered from that policy and has stable revenue, it’s time to invest in Kansas workers and their families with this commonsense policy that has long had bipartisan support.”

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2021/11/08/kansas-gubernatorial-candidates-push-legislature-to-eliminate-or-reduce-food-sales-tax/
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