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Heating bills rise, putting squeeze on consumers, economy

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This long, cold winter has forced households across New England and the Northeast to spend an estimated 20 percent more for heat this winter, squeezing household budgets, limiting consumer spending, and contributing to a slowdown in the broader economy.

In the Northeast, households are projected to spend a total of $5.5 billionmore on heating compared with last winter, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, a professional group in Washington. The average winter heating bill in New England is expected to climb nearly $300, to about $1,700 from $1,400 last season.

As higher heating costs reduce the amount of money that consumers can spend on clothes, electronics, or restaurant meals, it is affecting industries that depend on that spending.

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