News 12 First at 5, January 13, 2009
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Sixty-nine-year old Betty Gonder woke up this morning worried her power would be cut off by 5:00. Instead, thanks to a local organization, she's able keep the lights, and the heat on.
"That's my daughter with her kids," says Betty Gonder, a proud great-grandmother.
She is retired and lives on a fixed income. Behind on her bills, Betty was in danger of having her power, and heat, cut off until she got help. "I didn't know where I was gonna get the rest of the money to pay this bill," says Betty.
Betty was scared she wouldn't be able to keep the lights on, until Patricia Johnson and the Economic Opportunity Authority stepped in. Their heating assistance program for low income families has already helped 9,000 others just this winter.
"A lot of people are laid off, lost their jobs. Economy, recession -- different things that's going on that has caused a lot of people who have never received assistance from EOA to come knocking on our doors," says Patricia Johnson, the Energy Coordinator with the EOA.
The organization can give financial help once a year, all so that you can keep the fire going.
"Our goal is: we don't want any family to be cold during the winter. So during this time, however you heat your home -- that's the assistance we're offering at this time," says Patricia.
"We would be in a cold house and I'm grateful they did this for us today. You need help? Like I said, there's help out there. Go see these people and they will help you," encourages Betty.
And the power company is also willing to help. "Every member has an opportunity to make arrangements if they know there's gonna be a situation with paying their bill," says Steve Chalker with Jefferson Energy.
But it doesn't excuse the customer from paying the bill, it's there to give the customer a little more time, like Betty, so that nothing goes black.
The EOA is still helping those who qualify for the heating assistance program. You can call 1-866-722-4346 to put in an application.
Also-- from November to March there are rules that require electric service can not be disconnected if the temperature is below 32 degrees. Now a rule just went into effect that will do the same during excessive heat in the summer."