Columbia Resident Asks for Utility Assistance

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COLUMBIA - Columbia resident Lisa Koopmeiners' thermostat read 73 degrees Tuesday. Koopmeiners said she needs help paying her utility bill after going through cancer treatments. She stopped treatment in June, but said she's under doctor's orders to keep her apartment cool. She applied for assistance to pay her heating bill this past winter through Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA), but received a letter saying she was ineligible. Koopmeiners said she is hoping for better luck this summer, but CMCA expects it will come up short with funding for many clients.

CMCA said it received $72,933 from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program Monday but hoped to have more than that to help clients pay utility bills.

"It has jumped up like double the amount of just last month," Koopmeiners said.

CMCA Energy Coordinator Melody Rodriguez said CMCA applied for more funding during the summer to combat extreme heat. In reality, Rodriguez said this money will only help about 230 people.

"It's a drop in the bucket for everyone who needs it," Rodriguez said. She does not know an exact estimate of clients who need help paying cooling bills, but it could be thousands. CMCA is also sending out about $7,000 a day, so the money is only expected to last for a little more than a week. Each client who receives some of the funding will get about $300 from CMCA.

Rodriguez said once this money runs out, the next time CMCA can apply for aid for the elderly is Oct. 1 and Nov. 1 for the general public.