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Utility bill assistance programs see 70 percent increase in need

Posted at 10:35 PM, Aug 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 14:47:32-04

WACO, Texas — As inflation sends the price of groceries and rent higher, the cost of electricity is also on the rise.

"People's utility bills are higher," Caritas of Waco's Director Anne Owen said. "We've seen a 70 percent increase in people wanting assistance and needing assistance."

Caritas of Waco has been helping central Texans struggling to make ends meet for years. The recent increase in need has left the non-profit straining to keep up.

"We don't have enough staff to cover everyone who's needing assistance," Owen said. "Everything is higher right now because of the economy and unfortunately pay and salaries are not increasing at the same rate."

For people on a fixed income like Gary York, all of the increases have been hard to keep up with.

"It's tough, real tough," he told 25 News. "A lot of people can't afford these kind of bills."

Gary York first talked with 25 News two weeks ago when his neighbors said they had seen a 600 percent increase in their electric bill. At the time, he said he was afraid it would happen to him too. Now that fear has become a reality.

"$59, that was one from when you were here last time," he told reporters. "The one I got now is $273."

The new bill was more than four times higher than he'd expected to see. Now he, along with his neighbors, just hopes to find a way to keep the lights on.

"I can't go without electricity," he said. "I have to sleep on a ventilator at night."

As Texans struggle to cover necessities, assistance programs like Caritas are continuing to help as many people as they can.

"It is putting a little bit of stress on our staff because we're trying to help as many people every day as we can and we have a waiting list right now for assistance with utilities," Owen said.