How to get help with heating bills

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) -We're all experiencing the extreme winter chill outside and you may be turning your heat up inside to compensate for the cold.  If you're worried about paying the energy bill after this cold snap you may be eligible to get a little help.

There are thousands across Region 8 that struggle to pay all their bills every month.

"Loss of revenue in our community, the loss of jobs, cut backs, lay-offs.  We see a lot more people than we did I'd say a year ago," said Jean Oaks.

Jean Oaks with the Black River Area Development Corporation said in 2009 their organization helped over 4,000 families and that number could grow for 2010.

"We're going to see more people in need.  I tell everyone it could be me the next day because of our economy," said Oaks.

Applications for the Winter Assistance Program are already going out to some of the elderly and handicapped in the area pre-selected based on those in the food stamp program in Arkansas.  The program kicks off this coming Monday, January 11th.  Approval of applicants is based on income and the number of people who live in the household.

"It may pay one month's electric bill or one month's gas bill or it may have part of another month on there," said Oaks.

BRAD serves Randolph County, Clay County and Lawrence County.  Many may not know if they are eligible Oaks said to go ahead and apply just in case but it is first come first serve.

"In previous programs we've shut the program down maybe three days after it started because we were already obligated based on the amount of funding," said Oaks.

However Oaks said for 2009 and 2010 they've been given more money and that will allow them to help more people but you can only get the help if you apply for it.

"If we don't spend it it's just a major loss because I know the need is here," said Oaks.

Oaks said their goal is to be there for those who need help.

"Because of the weather and because of the economy we want to help everybody who is in need of assistance," said Oaks.

You can contact the BRAD offices in Corning, Pocahontas, or Walnut Ridge depending on which county you live in.  The number for the office in Pocahontas is 875-892-4547.

There are other organizations out there that can help you with your energy bill this winter.  Entergy customers might be eligible for assistance through various programs.

According to Entergy Arkansas, Inc. 20 to 25 percent of their 2.7 million customers need government assistance.  There are several sources of assistance available.   Entergy encourages customers to contact them directly or a non-profit agency in their community before the need for assistance arrives.  For more information or to retrieve a registration form, visit

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