Energy Bill Assistance

If you think the cold weather is making you shudder now, wait until you open next month's heating bill.

That may cause another shudder.

Hundreds decided not to wait to get that bill before seeking help paying it.

There was 4.5 million dollars made available to a 12 county area that includes Pulaski to help low income individuals or families pay their gas or electric bills.

Over $500,000 has already been used to help the elderly and disabled.

The process of applying for the rest started today.

There is no shame in being down on your luck. But it can be an inconvenience.

To help prevent the inconvenience of living for awhile without lights or heat hundreds showed up at the State Fairgrounds in Little Rock to apply for energy assistance funds.

"I'm hoping that it will pay for some of our electric," says applicant Michelle Estridge. "But I mean, if it don't, so be it. If it does, thank God for that."

"It's state and federal funds that comes down for us to help the people pay their utility bills to keep their heat on in this cold weather," says Valerie Ramsey, the HEAP program coordinator for the district that includes Pulaski County.

The help likely won't wipe out energy bills entirely.

For example, a family of two making $710.00 per month would qualify for a one-time assistance payment of $139.00. (If facing a shut off notice the potential for additional "crisis" help could be applied for and provided starting in February).

Still...every little bit helps.

"My little girl has an asthma machine that she has to run every night and she wouldn't even have the asthma machine on," says applicant Tiffany Williamson. "If they didn't have the assistance here...I would be without."

There will be other mass sign ups held this week. Here are the times/locations:

: State Fairgrounds, January 7th, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm.

Little Rock

Arkadelphia: Arkadelphia Fairgrounds (1201 Hwy 67 S), January 7th, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm.

El Dorado: TAC House (1101 NW Ave), January 8th, 9:00 am - Noon.

Lonoke: Lonoke Community Center (1355 W. Front), January 8th, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm.

Benton: Gene Moss Building (913 E. Sevier), January 9th, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm.

Camden: Carnes Park (955 Adams), January 9th, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm.

Malvern: 4H Youth Center (1407 MLK Blvd), January 10th, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm.

Also, as long as the temperatures keep dipping below freezing within any 24 hour period neither your electricity nor your natural gas provider can cut off service if you are behind on your payments.

Air date: January 6th, 2014