High heating bills have people scrambling for assistance - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

High heating bills have people scrambling for assistance

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Duke Energy customers in North Carolina have set a new record for energy use, thanks to the cold weather. Energy use peaked Thursday morning, when temps fell to five degrees, and exceeded the previous record set in August 2007.

Now many people are feeling the pain again but this time it's when they open their heating bills.

"I saw a bill today it was $389," said Diana Walker, a case worker at Crisis Assistance Ministries. "I saw another bill last week it was $519."

A room full of files, many of them heating bills, that cannot be paid are sitting in the office of the organization.

One of the newest files belongs to Larry Belk Jr.

"I feel as if God sent me here to get the help I need because it's cold outside," said Belk. "The temperature when it drops down to a certain level you need heat." 

Belk says he and his 14-year-old son needed the heat in their home too often over the last month in the Queen City.

"One day is hot the next minute it's cold," said Belk, describing how his heating bill got so high.

When he opened up the bill he says he was shocked to see he owed $580. A price too high for what he makes on his budget.

"I was like oh my God, I cannot afford  this," he said.

Workers at Crisis Assistance Ministries say the number of people who have similar stories as Belk have increased drastically.

"At the peak we get anywhere from 200 plus daily," said Walker, who is expecting even more people after the next wave of bills are opened up.

She says for those people who qualify, Crisis Assistance Ministries can help take off the burden of high heating bills.

"It puts them at ease and they can leave here and be able to go home and I say and have a good night sleep," said Walker. "We don't want anyone to walk away from our agency and they not have heat and be in danger."

The Housing and Financial Stability program at the Ministry offers assistance with rent and utility payments and gives people the tools they need to become financially stable. All assistance is done in-person at 500A Spratt Street.

In January alone, $900,000 was paid out to people to get them out from under high bills and back on their feet.

Offices at the Crisis Assistance Ministries open at 8 a.m. during the week.

To visit the NC State page for energy assistance, click here.

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