Heat could lead more to apply for electric bill assistance

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Families have recently seen their utility bills rise, as temperatures continue to climb higher.

Some are unable to afford the extra cost, so one local organization has stepped in and offered a helping hand.

Crowley's Ridge Development Council, Inc. (CRDC) expects to receive an influx of applications for its summer electric bill assistance program.

The organization will begin accepting applications on July 9, and staff are preparing for a sizable spike in participation from just a few months ago.

"Actually, it seemed like this winter we didn't have as many (participants) as normal, and I think it's because we didn't have such a hard winter," Jackie Haneline said. "But we are expecting a very  big turnout for the summer."

Haneline manages the CRDC Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps those, who qualify, with a utility bill.

"It is for the low income," Haneline said. "It's for the disabled. It's for the elderly, those that are on fixed incomes as well."

CRDC staff recently stuffed 8,000 envelopes, which contained applications for the elderly and disabled using food stamps in their service area.

Haneline, however, expects more than that to seek help, likely surpassing the 9,899 families who received electric bill assistance last summer.

The program will assist with a regular electric bill or a shut-off notice. Haneline asks people to allow 35 days for the application to be processed for those applying for regular assistance and 48 hours for those applying for crisis assistance. All payments will be sent directly to the utility provider.

These one-time installments help offset the rising cost to cool people's homes, but Haneline suggests the sooner people apply the better. CRDC has set aside a limited amount of money for the program, and she worries that could dry up much sooner than expected this summer.

"The economy is still not that great. Jobs are still scarce," Haneline said. "If you have not ever applied for this assistance, don't be too proud. That's what it's here for."

To expedite the application process, people should bring proof of the previous month's income and their current utility bill.

Clients must live in Arkansas and live in the county that they apply.

For more information, please call or visit your local CRDC office:

Craighead County – 2401 Fox Meadow Lane, Jonesboro, AR; 870-935-8610, 870-802-7100

·         Crittenden County – 111 E. Jackson, West Memphis, AR; 870-400-4023, 870-400-0360

·         Cross County – 1304 S. Falls Blvd, Wynne, AR; 870-238-1229

·         Greene County – 144 Linwood Drive, Paragould, AR; 870-239-3531

·         Jackson County – 2000 McClain St. Ste. C, Newport, AR; 870-523-5474

·         Poinsett County – 200 Industrial St., Marked Tree, AR; 870-358-1200

·         St. Francis County – 1343 South Washington, Forrest City, AR; 870-630-0193

·         Woodruff County – 224 Main St., Augusta, AR; 870-347-1458

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