Demand for Heat Assistance Up

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

Margaret Grose works at United Way. She deals with people struggling to pay their utility bills year-round but says this time of year the need is dire.

"Because if they're getting shut off now it's cold. It's really hard to be without heat," she said.

Terry DeDoes of Consumers Energy says there's no reason you should be without it.

"If you think you'll have a problem paying your bill give us a call. It'll give us more time to work out payment options," he said.

DeDoes says there are things you can do to lower your bill. You can use a space heater and a programmable thermostat. He says you should also have your furnace inspected once a year and replace or clean its filter every month. That'll not only save you up to two percent on your bill but also should help protect you against carbon monoxide, "the silent killer," he says.

"Some of the symptoms are flu-like, headache, nausea. And if you don't get help quickly, or get out of the carbon monoxide environment, it could cause death," DeDoes said.

At United Way of Jackson, employees have seen a spike in demand for assistance--whether with heating, rent, or gas. But unfortunately, they say, there just isn't money to help everyone.

"The hardest part of my job is saying I'm sorry, I don't have any funds available," Grose said.

Grose says sometimes it's a matter of changing your routine.

"I tell people go and use the pantry at Salvation Army and save that money you'd spend on food to pay your utility bill," she said.

She says it's also important to reevaluate what you can't live without.

"Some people say, 'well I have my cable bill, I have my cell phone bill...' Those are not considered basic needs. It's a rude awakening but it's a fact of life," she said.

Grose says if you don't know what assistance you qualify for, call 2-1-1.

She also often refers people to the Department of Human Services.

Consumers Energy also has a shut-off protection program. You can find the link below.


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