Utility bill programs help low-income citizens

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COLUMBIA - Boone Electric members will have the opportunity to donate money to help other members pay their utility bills. 

Cooperative members will receive a form in the mail this November to sign up for the C.A.S.H. and H.E.L.P. programs, a joint effort with the City of Columbia for members to donate towards low-income families who are struggling to pay their monthly bills.

C.A.S.H., which stands for Citizens Assisting Seniors & Disabled, focuses on assisting low-income elderly and disabled members who have exhausted all their resources to pay their bills.

H.E.L.P., or Heat, Energy & Light Program, assists low-income families with children on a one-time emergency basis.

Around 25 families get monthly assistance from C.A.S.H. and H.E.L.P. throughout the year to pay their electric and sewer bills.

Chris Rohlfing, manager for Boone Electric member services, said Boone Electric does its best to keep utility bills low for its members.

"At Boone Electric Cooperative, we work very hard to make sure we have reliability and affordability," Rohlfing said. "But even with us doing everything we can to keep the rates affordable, there are times that seniors will struggle and families with children will struggle."

Boone Electric members can make a one-time donation for both or either program, or they can pledge to give donations monthly. The amount of money donated will be automatically placed on members' utility bills. 

Members struggling to pay their bills must qualify through the Boone County Health Department to receive the donated funds and can only receive a maximum of $275 dollars.

"The money is used very carefully, it's not doled out unless there's a definite need," Rohlfing said.

Since the programs were created in the early 1980s, C.A.S.H. and H.E.L.P. have assisted over 7000 member families.

If cooperative members don't receive a donation form in the mail, they can fill out an online form to donate at any time.