Families are scrambling to keep warm, and many agencies are trying to help them keep the heat on in these sub-freezing temperatures. The cold weather has people flocking to one help agency in droves..
Two months ago, Cornelia Walker applied for help with her high electric bill. "How can my bill be that high," she wonders out loud. "I'm alone, by myself.. I barely use the lights, so what's going on?"
Two months later, she realized she still needed help. Ms. Walker has come to the Chattanooga Human Services office, to apply for help paying her electric bill.
It's called the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LI-HEAP and in 30 years of helping families. "This is the year that there have been the most demand on the program," says case worker Linda Astacio. "It's the most applicatioins we have ever seen filed."
It works like this.. in one instance, your family is in a crisis, with children under the age of five, or you're disabled, and you have a power disconnect notice in your hand. In that situation, the LI-HEAP program pays the bill immediately.
In the majority of other instances, you can SEE that you'll have a problem paying the heating bill. In that case, LI-HEAP helps with planning for paying the bill BEFORE the disconnect notice comes.
Maria Shved is in that boat. "I have to wait patiently," she says, "because many people need the help.. too many people need help, also."
So far since the heating season started back on October 1st, one million, 178 million dollars has been paid by Chattanooga Human Services to keep the heat on, for about 3-thousand households..
Households like Cornelia Walker's. "I mean, you just don't know from one day to the next, what's going to go on, and it gets scary," she says.
The money to help struggling families pay heating and cooling bills comes from the federal government. Every state gets money, which is distributed through each county..
If you have questions, call the human services office in your own city or county.by Calvin Sneed