Salvation Army Runs Out of Utility Assistance Money
By Nadia Crow, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Winter weather on the way means cranking up the furnace. But with that comes higher energy bills. That's why phones ring off the hook at the Salvation Army as Eastern Iowans try to get help paying their utility bills.
Some of the trouble stems yet from summer cooling costs.
People call with past due and shut off notices they've accumulated over time. Now, as the temperatures get cooler Salvation Army staff say they've already run out of money for the month of November.
“It was 17 degrees outside and the wind chill was zero it was not fun,” said Salvation Army client Annette Taylor.
After getting her heat turned off, Annette Taylor called the Salvation Army.
“I have three teenagers my husband works full time and makes $7.50 an hour. That doesn't pay for everything,” said Taylor.
The Salvation Army gives out rent and utility assistance to people in need. But you have to meet an income requirement, allow staff to verify your utility bills and payment history, and no double dipping. You can only get funds once a year. Despite the strict guidelines, the need for help rises.
“It used to be it would take me maybe two weeks to fill up a month and now it takes me only two hours,” said Salvation Army case worker Amy Stano.
On Monday, case worker Amy Stano and several volunteers fielded about one hundred phone calls from people hoping to get help.
“It's just become an incredibly high volume very fast of people who need help,” said Stano.
Many of those people ended up on a waiting list when the program ran out of money for November. And that's a trend that'll likely continue throughout the winter. It’s disappointment for Taylor who called and got turned away.
“There were a couple of times when I did call for help and there were no appointments no funds or both,” said Taylor.
The Salvation Army may not be able to completely pay off someone's debt because there's a maximum amount they can give to an individual or household. Last year, they spent about $100,000 on this program.
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