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Energy assistance available to help families pay utility bills

Energy assistance available to help families pay utility bills

Dozens of customers have been voicing their concerns after receiving unusually high bills from Gulf Power.

Many Gulf Power customers said their bills more than doubled.

A Gulf Power spokesperson said the higher bills are due to the several days of sub-freezing temperatures we saw in January.

Gulf Power spokesperson Jeff Rogers told WEAR on the morning of January 18th, customers used more electricity than they ever had in the history of the company.

Many people say they are unsure of how they will pay their bills.

Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida helps families in Escambia County and 17 other counties across the area.

Matthew Knee, director of the organization, said they receive anywhere from 50 to 60 calls every day from people who need help.

As temperatures dropped below freezing this winter, many families are worried about covering the cost of high utility bills.

Last year, Catholic Charities helped more than 50,000 people cover their emergency needs.

"A high power bill, a high medical expense, or a broken down car will justify as one of those emergencies," said Knee.

Knee said they anticipate the number of people who need help to double this year.

"We do a screening process every Monday morning at each one of our offices starting at 9 a.m. and they are call-in, they are not walk-ins," explained Knee.

A Gulf Power spokesperson said the colder the temperature, the larger the bill.

"If you lived here long enough you know we'll get cold, we'll get warm, get cold get warm, but this time it just really stayed cold for a sustained period of time," Kimberly Blair said.

Blair said after applying for emergency assistance programs, households may be protected from utility companies turning off services.

"We sit down with each individual, we go through their budget, we go through their income. They're required to take a financial literacy course so we don't like putting a band-aid on a shotgun," Knee explained.

With nearly two months of winter left and a cold snap forecasted for next week, Blair said Gulf Power is donating $25,000 to the Salvation Army, Council on Aging, Area on Aging, and Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida.

"This money is specifically to help customers with their utility bills," Blair added.

With dozens of programs out there to help, the director said the cold weather is brutal enough without having to worry about what your utility bill may be in the coming months.

"Don't get discouraged, we receive a very high volume being a nonprofit, we have limited people answering the phone so we just hope people don't leave a message, don't press any buttons, just hang up and call again," said Knee.

Knee said each family will need to be screened to qualify for services.

Here is a full list of where to get help paying your power bill:

Eastern District

Chipley

· Love in Action, 850-638-2706

· Jackson County Senior Citizen, 850-263-4650

· Salvation Army, 850-638-7102

Panama City

· Catholic Charities, 850-763-0475

· Council On Aging, 850-769-3468

· United Way, 850-785-7521 or 215-6611

· Family Services, 850-785-1721

· Salvation Army, 850-769-5259

· Tri County, 942 Jenks Ave., 850-215-0173

· Beach Care Services — Panama City Beach Residents only 850-235-3002

Central District

DeFuniak Springs

· Caring & Sharing, 850-892-7656

· Tri County Council Assistance, 850-892-3615

Fort Walton

· Striving for Perfection Ministries, 312 Pelham Rd. Open Tues - Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 850-862-3899

· United Way, 112 Tupelo Ave., 850-243-0315

· Salvation Army, 425 Mary Esther-cutoff, 850-243-4531

· Catholic Social Services, 11 1st St. 850-244-2825

Crestview

· Sharing & Caring, 850-682-1134

· Salvation Army, 850-243-4531

· Tri-County, 850-306-1134

Niceville

· Okaloosa County Council on Aging 850-833-9165

· Salvation Army 850-243-4531

· Catholic Social Services 850-244-2825

· Sharing & Caring 850-678-8459

Pensacola

· United Ministries (only provides assistance to families w/children) 257 E Lee St., Pensacola, 850-433-2333

· Catholic Social Services, 222 E Government St., Pensacola, 850-436-6425

· Community Action Program (Tuesdays 8:15-9:15 am), 1308 W Garden St., Pensacola, 850-607-2088

· 2-1-1 Northwest Florida (United Way of Escambia County) on 1301 W. Government Street, Pensacola, FL 32502, Dial 2-1-1 or (850) 434-3157.

· Salvation Army, 1501 North Q St., Pensacola, 850-432-1501

· First Baptist Church, 850-438-8907

· Olive Baptist Church. 850-473-4466

Milton

· Interfaith Ministries — Santa Rosa County residents, Gulf Breeze, Navarre, Milton, 850-934-8385

· We Care Ministries (United Methodist Church — Santa Rosa County residents, Navarre) 850-939-1005

· Family Resource Center, 850-626-2054

· Salvation Army, Santa Rosa County, 850-623-4099

· Tri County Community Council, 6607 Elva St., 850-981-0036

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