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Wilson Social Services Worried About Possible Heating Crisis

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WILSON COUNTY, N.C. — Hobert and Inez Lewis know the pain of high-heating costs.

Last winter they struggled to pay their bills

"We got some extensions," Inez Lewis said. "We'd pay a certain portion of it and get an extension, but still the next month you had to pay that."

Both are disabled and take lots of medication. They are also on a fixed income and worry soaring natural gas prices this year will force them to choose between heat and health.

"It is a concern for us because if it goes up very high, I know what we're looking at. We're looking at disaster," Inez said.

So, for the first time, they applied to Wilson County Department of Social Services for help.

But officials with Wilson County's social services said they expect more people than ever before to apply for help with their heating expenses. The result may be a heating crisis.

"That is a huge concern for us," Debra Jewel, of the Wilson County Department of Social Services, said.

Jewel said the agency expected at least 350 more families to apply for help this year than last year.

But, there is less money to go around. Jewel said the agency is working with about half the federal funds it had three years ago.

Wilson County has about $124,000 in federal aid to help people heat and cool their homes this year.

Because of the hot summer, the agency already has spent about 30 percent of that aid.

This week the agency made a plea for help. Officials have asked businesses, churches and people who live in the community to give money to what it calls the heating crisis fund.

"When our money runs out, we don't have anything else to assist with so that means there could be families that will be going without heat," Jewel said.

She said all the money they raised would go directly to heating Wilson County homes.

"We need it," Lewis said.


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