More than 20 million US households are behind on utility bills

New data indicates a staggering number of American households are currently behind on making utility payments due mainly to soaring energy costs

more than 20 million U.S. families are behind on their utility bills, numbers NEADA executive director Mark Wolfe believes are "historic."

The NEADA chief told what is even more alarming is the surge in the collective amount owed, which sat at roughly $8.1 billion at the end of 2019 and has now skyrocketed to around $16 billion.

The average delinquent bill climbed from $403 to $792. A primary driver behind the utility debt is a surge in energy prices.

The cost of natural gas – used to power homes so folks can keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter – was up 30.5% year-over-year in July, according to the Labor Department.

While energy is in high demand in the summer, experts say heating bills this winter will bring more pain.

Andrew Lipow Said "the consumer is going to pay more for their heating bills this winter,"

"whether they use natural gas or home heating oil, most will have sticker shock."

The latest consumer price index shows inflation across the board remains near a 40-year high. While wages are also rising

the gains are not keeping up with price hikes eating away at Americans' paychecks – forcing more consumers to make tradeoffs and prioritize spending on necessities like groceries.