Local News

Some Families May Face Cold Reception In Paying Off Heating Bills

Posted Updated

FAYETTEVILLE — Industry experts say with not enough natural gas to meet demands, home heating prices will continue to rise. Finding help to pay those bills is not as easy as in winter's past.

Full-time student Jamie Ryan says these days it can be warmer sitting on her porch than inside her home. She recently had 50 gallons of propane put in her tank, but with the recent cold snap, she is out of gas and out of money.

"I just didn't think it would last only eight days. It's difficult," she says.

Ryan and others turned to the Salvation Army. With colder days coming early this year and higher gas and oil prices, Fayetteville's Salvation Army is seeing a 30 percent increase in people looking for help paying their electricity and gas bills.

By 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, 21 people came for aid. The elderly and families with small children will get help, but people who do not meet that guideline are turned away.

"We have a certain amount of people allotted for that assistance, then we need to refer them to the beginning of next week," says Lt. Ethan Frizzell of the Salvation Army. "Right now, we are referring so many people, that early next week, those people are coming back in, and the allotment is once again gone for that week."

Vander Carroll tried to get help from the Salvation Army, but his household income was a little too much for him to qualify. Without money for the rising cost of propane, he will rely on a kerosene heater to get his family through the cold.

"There's no way I can fill the tank, none whatsoever. This year, it's almost impossible," he says.

Power and natural gas companies often ask their customers to help those in need. Last year, thePublic Works Commissionin Fayetteville collected money to help several hundred families.

CP&LandNorth Carolina Natural Gashave also helped about 90,000 families through donations from employees, customers and stockholders.

This year's higher bills do not just hit the wallets of low income families.

CP&L and North Carolina Natural Gas encourage all customers to take part in an Equal Payment Plan.

Your winter bills are not any higher because every month, you pay an average of your yearly usage. Many propane companies will not deliver less than about 75 gallons.

However, some do offer payment plans depending on your history as a customer.