The heat is on and it’s proving difficult to escape. An excessive heat warning remains in effect for the Parkland through Saturday. Temperatures are going to stay in the 90s through the first part of next week with heat indexes over 100, according to the National Weather Service.
As temperatures remain high for a prolonged period, electric bills will also be high as air conditioners run nonstop to help residents seek refuge from the heat.
Donna Hickman, the executive director of the United Way, said she has been fielding phone calls from people who are behind on their electric bills and are afraid their power is going to be shut off.
“Other people call and want to know how to get an air conditioner,” Hickman said. “Some people are under the impression that the United Way gives out money to individuals who are in need. The United Way does not give out money to individuals. We do give out money to many agencies that meet all kinds of needs in our community.”
She encourages people to call 211, the statewide information line.
“They can call this number and tell the operator what their needs are,” Hickman said. “The operator will then let them know which agency they need to contact to help get their need taken care of.”
There are energy assistance programs available through 211. The number can be accessed on the Internet at www.211missouri.org.
Keri McCrorey, the community service director for East Missouri Action Agency (EMAA), said her office has been flooded with calls from people needing assistance.
She said most people are needing help paying their electric bills.
“If their income qualifies and they are in a crisis (received a shutoff notice) we can pay up to $300 during the summer,” McCrorey said.
She said EMAA also offers assistance for energy repair if a central air conditioning unit breaks during the summer months.
“If the income qualifies we can help pay to get an air conditioner fixed.”
She said for people with medical emergencies, EMAA provides 110 air conditioning units that will cool one room in the house or apartment.
“We are completely out of those right now,” McCrorey said. “We should have some more in next week.”
All of EMAA’s programs are contingent on available funding. McCrorey estimated the agency has spent about 60 percent of it’s funding for the programs since the first of June.
“We will most likely be out of funding by July 8-9,” she said. “The bills from this heat wave haven’t even come out yet. I don’t think we have ever used this much of our funding this quickly.”
She attributed that to high utility bills and the economy.
“We are seeing people who need assistance who we have never seen before because of the economy,” McCrorey said. “They either lost their job or are laid off and are struggling to make ends meet.”
Chris Cline is a reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.