Utility Assistance Available During Cold Months

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COLUMBIA - The weather is getting colder and the price of utility bills could be getting higher due to heat use. The City of Columbia is offering utility assistance to those in need during the cold months ahead.

Lynn Cannon is the assistant director of finance for Columbia and said the utility assistance program seems to be in greater need as the weather gets colder.

"The city has two different programs that it has to assist customers with their utility bills," Cannon said. "The first one is the CASH program, which is available to senior citizens and disabled persons. There's also the HELP program, which is available to assist eligible families that have children."

In order to be eligible for the CASH program as a senior citizen, the applicant must be at least 60 years old. To receive assistance as a disabled person, an individual must be receiving income based on disability status or unable to work.

To receive assistance through the HELP program, the applicant must be a parent or guardian of a child who is 18 years old or younger and enrolled in school.

An applicant's household income must be at or below 150 percent of the federal government's poverty guidelines in order to be eligible for either program.

The CASH and HELP programs are completely funded by city utility customers and other residents who wish to donate. Utility customers may specify donation amounts to each of the programs on their monthly utility bills. Customers can choose to donate to either program individually, or to both.

"People need to be aware of [the assistance programs]," Cannon said. "They can apply, there is no guarantee they would be the ones that are selected. Again, we can only provide the assistance based on the dollars and donations that come in from the other citizens."

Applicants receiving aid are selected at random and will be chosen the month after the application is filed. Aid recipients can receive a yearly maximum of $100. Andrea Waner is the public information officer for the city. She said health services limits the amount so it can serve more applicants.

"We want the ability to serve the greatest number of people in our community with the funds that have been donated," Waner said.

A person can apply for the assistance programs by filling out an application. For more information on qualifications or how to obtain an application, visit the city's website.