Heating assistance problems

Heating assistance problems
By: CJ Cassidy
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - It's cold outside, and that means people are turning up the heat. But as some folks found out Wednesday, they could be in for a long, cold winter, especially those who have had their power turned off.
Still people who showed up at the East Missouri Action Agency to get some help paying their bills, were in for another shock.  "Our finances are going to run out. We didn't get hardly any money," Ken Smith with the Agency announced to the crowd, who met the news with moans and groans.
Moms with children, grandmas clutching their bills, all hoping for help, as they prepare for the chill of winter.  Tracy Dennis had her power turned off in early October. "I have children. We have to go back and forth between relatives for showers," she says.
Robyn Wilkerson, also of Cape Girardeau, knows all too well what that's like.  She cleaned out her refrigerator two months ago, when the electric company cut her off.  She says she couldn't keep up payments after losing her job.
As Roman, the youngest of Wilkerson's four kids, ran off to play in his room in the dark apartment, Robyn shared her concerns.  "It's really hard, especially for my kids. They're used to being at their house in their own beds stuff like that. We're sharing beds now."
Ken Smith, this is the part of his job, he hates.  "It's hard to tell someone you can't help them, because they're needing some help. They're on a fixed income, and it's hard to talk and tell them," he says.
Through the commotion, Tracy Dennis hangs onto hope, she'll return home soon.  "It'll feel great, instead of having to go to different people's homes ," she says.
Ameren UE representatives say the Missouri Cold Weather Rule that goes into effect today, might help customers avoid disconnection or get reconnected.
The state prohibits shutting off heat when the temperature is predicted to drop below 32 degrees.
Call Ameren UE for more information at 1-800-552-7583.
The Salvation Army can also refer you to other ways to get help paying the heating bill.
Another option: the low income home energy assistance program is designed to assist people who qualify and that involves income.