"If they need help on a utility bill they call our agency and we ask them questions, figure out what's the bill, how urgent is it. And then we make referrals to programs in the community that can assist them," said AFL CIO Executive Director Penny Adams.
To avoid being turned away Penny suggests that a late bill get immediate attention and not let it build into a bigger problem. There needs to be enough time for information to be processed.
"8 out of 10 calls are for utility help. And many of them are calling at the last minute right before they're ready to be shut off and there isn't a lot of help to offer at that moment," said Adams.
With summer heat really starting to set in, more phone calls are expected in the coming months as a lot of people's utilities are just now starting to be used.
"People are going to be turning on their air that have been trying to live without it. And there's a lot of people that need it because of medical reasons. They're going to be facing pretty large bills probably in a month or so. I'm sure our phones will continue to ring," said Adams.
Because funds have to be used sparingly, agencies check to see if people can keep their bills paid after assistance is given. If they have a history of not doing so, they are more likely to be turned away.
"We can see where people have gone to receive help and make sure they're not abusers or people that are just getting help from everyone," said Adams.
Even though this does happen, honesty is always appreciated and taken into account.
"If they've got something to help to it though, they usually say so. You know, I can pay $50 or I can pay $75 to help me get the bill paid," said Catholic Charities Energy Coordinator Lana White.
Once the decision is made to provide assistance the amount of help always varies due to late amounts owed never being the exact same.
"Every time somebody calls us it's a different situation so we look at the whole picture and see what's the best way we can help someone," said Adams.
Organizations do sometimes have fans and air conditioners available. But, recipients must meet certain guidelines to get them.
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