Agencies expect more applications for utility assistance

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Having trouble paying your utility bills? You are not alone, especially with a proposed rate hike by Georgia Power, expected to be $10.27 a month.

Agencies who try to help people pay power bills are expecting a lot of new people in need.

"It broke the camels back," Jualeiah Banks told WTOC.

Banks is a Georgia Power customer, but she's not ready to ask the Salvation Army for help paying her utilities.

She is, however, one of hundreds signing up for the Angel Tree program to help buy gifts for her children this Christmas.

"It's hard enough as it is and assistance is limited," Banks said.

If Georgia Power raises rates more than $10 a month, she says she may have to come back to the Salvation Army.

"What little assistance they are getting and they raise the rates, then will have to come again and get more assistance," she said. "If you are not qualified for it you won't get it. So where will you get the extra $11 to pay Georgia Power?"

"I suspect it will have an impact," Captain Marion Platt, The Salvation Army, told WTOC.

Platt is busy signing up folks for the Angel Tree, anticpating a tough Christmas for many. "I'd say 75 to 80 percent of people who come in have had some kind of help before," he said.

The Salvation Army has to keep their lights on too, and helping so many comes at a price.

"Right now, the supply of income and donations for us, funding, all those things doesn't really meet the demand of the number of people who come to us every week, every day," Platt said.

"Georgia Power has been very good to the Salvation Army the last several years, helping us meet the needs of individuals in our community," Platt said.

More than 100 families are on a waiting list for utility help. Platt says many are in danger of having power cut off.

"Then you have other bills. You have rent, water, other bills," Banks said.

Banks isn't sure the Salvation Army, or families, can survive a price hike. "It's not fair. Not fair," she said.

Making it all worse, donations are down. So it could be a rough fall and winter for the Salvation Army, not to mention Christmas season.

The Salvation Army is asking everyone to be patient, they have a long waiting list and only a few caseworkers to handle the load.

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