Group Loses Funding as Cold Weather Rule Looms
COLUMBIA - Less than 24 hours before a special rule to lower heating costs takes effect, one community organizer said Monday his organization has lost half of its federal funding for a crisis intervention program this year.
The Cold Weather Rule, which begins Tuesday and runs through March 31, 2012, most notably prevents some gas and electric providers from disconnecting customers' service during times of dangerously low temperatures. However, the rule also provides financial assistance to low-income and elderly customers by directing them to non-profit organizations.
Central Missouri Community Action executive director Darin Preis said the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps provide those funds, is no longer fully funded. Coupled with a short-handed staff, Preis said the situation forced his organization to switch utility applications to an exclusive, mail-only format.
"It used to be people could come into our offices and we could provide assistance to them one-on-one," Preis said. "But we don't have the staff we used to have."
The Cold Weather Rule bans publicly-traded utility companies from shutting off gas or power when temperatures reach 32 degrees or below. It also allows customers to restart their utilities at lower rates after they lose service.