ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – Battles over the federal budget are proving to have very real ramifications for low income people in the St. Louis area seeking help with their utility bills. One group, the North East Community Action Corporation, says it’s out of money just as the coldest part of the winter kicks in.
Doris Spates sat in NECAC’s lobby Monday afternoon, hoping for help. The St. Peters woman says power and gas companies were both threatening to cut her off. She expected help from NECAC, but received none.
“Basically it’s up to God where we can go from here. If we can get that secondary funding everybody will be able to get some help. Keep your lights and gas on. Whatever you need to keep warm with.”
She is one of dozens the small nonprofit has turned away since Friday. That was the day the spent the last of the $712 thousand federal dollars for emergency heating help. Last year they were allotted about $1.5 million, and were able to help people through March.
Asked if they’re broke, St. Charles County Coordinator Debra Martin said, “We are. In the past we’ve received second and even sometimes third round help, but with all of the cuts to nonprofit agencies on utility assistance, I would be surprised if we even get second round help.”
She says she’ll likely end up turning away some 1500 people in St. Charles County alone. Half of them will likely have their power cut off before winter is over.
It is illegal for your power to be turned off in Missouri when the temperature, or the forecast high, is below 32 degrees. But as soon as the number creep above freezing, you can be cut off, and at NECAC, they fear many will.
“I am very nervous,” Martin says. “I feel sorry for the elderly, disabled, parents of small children. It’s very disheartening to know here we are, in the country we live in and we can’t even afford to help our own individuals out with some heat.”
There is still some money available. Another program, which allows the needy to receive a single check if they haven’t sought help since October, still has money. But officials at NECAC don’t know how long that will last.
For information on heating help, you can check out these resources.