CMCA, Residents React to Proposed Electric Rate Hikes

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COLUMBIA - Columbia resident Lisa Koopmeiners and her grandchildren sat outside her apartment Tuesday afternoon to avoid leaving their air conditioning on because she claims she is having trouble paying the bill. The  news could get worse.  Her monthly burden could soon be steeper after the Columbia City Council discussed proposed electric rate increases.

Koopmeiners said her electric bill has about doubled in the last month. "It went from $75 up to $128," Koopmeiners said. "People can hardly afford their electricity now. What are they going to do?"

The council, Monday, discussed raising electric disconnect fees for residents who purchase utilities through the city. The current fee is $15, but it could go up to $25. The council also discussed raising the base fee for electric rates per household each month.

However, Ward 2 City Councilman Michael Trapp proposed an amendment to the budget to keep the fee at $15.

Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) said these increases would be "terrible" for its clients. CMCA received $72,933 in federal funding to help clients with utility bills back in July, but officials said that money only helped about 300 people that needed assistance.

"The ones that I think about are the ones that are on a fixed income. They will not get an increase. However, their utility bill will now get an increase," CMCA Information and Referral Specialist Colita Harvey said.

Koopmeiners said she applied for some of this aid, but did not receive any.The electric rate increases per kilowatt hour could increase for billing cycles after Oct. 1. The council is also expected to vote on the possible disconnect increase on Sept. 20.