Heating bills don't have to leave you cold

By Becky Graham - bio | email
Posted by Melissa Greathouse - email

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - If you can't afford gas or electricity for your home, there are programs you can to take advantage of to help you and your family stay safe this winter.

Winter weather causes utilities to be high, forcing some to sit in the cold. But an agency in Evansville wants to let those in need know they don't have to struggle through this winter.

"I think during this economic downturn we are going to find more people fall in this challenge to pay category," says Vectren spokesperson Chase Kelley.

Starting in September, Vectren warned their customers of high winter utility bills. Four months later it's a reality for thousands in the area.

"We've seen $1,400 to $1,500 bills," says Salvation Army Director of Social Services Gwen Rode.

The Community Action Program of Evansville can provide short-term assistance.

"To date we have served 4,100 households in our three county area and allocated 43 percent of our budget," says Gale Brocksmith, CAPE Director of Planning and Corporate Affairs.

The federally-funded energy assistance program has spent $1.5 million to be exact, double the amount from last year, to accommodate the increased numbers.

"The funds have increased this year so we are hoping to serve additional 2,000 people," Brocksmith says.

To qualify for assistance, individuals must meet certain income requirements. It depends on the number of people living in your house and your total income.

When you're approved the assistance is immediate.

"You then automatically get a 15 to 30 percent discount on your gas bill," says Kelley.

Limited assistance is better than none, but there is no easy solution for those who are struggling.

"We can only give so much assistance and their bills are huge," Rode says.

Agencies like the Salvation Army and the United Way help provide financial support, but Vectren says the best advice for people is to seek help as soon as possible before bills pile up.