The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Joplin Metro

January 23, 2009

Funding helps area residents pay utility bills

By Debby Woodin

and Dustin Shipman

news@joplinglobe.com

Sarah Davis is a single mother and college student whose hours at work were cut, leaving her short of money to pay winter heating bills.

That sent the Carthage woman to Economic Security Corp. on Thursday to apply for assistance in meeting winter’s expense.

“Without this I would have to ask family for help or get another job. Those are really the only options that I have, but with school it is not easy, so for the next eight weeks I am going to struggle,” Davis said.

Penny Cooper, of Joplin, also is seeking help with heating bills.

“My husband was laid off and I was recently terminated, and it does help because, without this, I wouldn’t even have my lights on and I have a 15-year-old son at home,” Cooper said.

She said it’s hard to ask for assistance when she sees so many others struggling, too.

“There are a lot of people who need help right now, but it is a great help,” she said.

Davis and Cooper aren’t alone. They are among the 5,079 households statewide seeking subsidies this winter to help pay utility bills. With layoffs on the rise and other economic problems, applications are up nearly 28 percent from the 3,975 filed last year in the state, according to figures provided by Robyn Walker, family intake assessment specialist at ESC, 302 Joplin St.

Funding increase

There’s good news, though, for all those who heat with natural gas. Gas rates for customers of Missouri Gas Energy have gone down, from 95 to 77 cents per hundred cubic feet. That will save the average user about $23 in February and March, said Jason Fulp, spokesman for MGE.

And, for those who qualify for assistance, there’s more good news. More people will get help with bills and with weatherizing their homes because more money is being made available for both programs.

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