WG&L beefs up program to help those in need - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

WG&L beefs up program to help those in need

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - More people are having trouble paying their utility bills. As job losses mount, There's a dramatic increase in the number of customers calling Water, Gas and Light asking for help so they won't have their water or power shut off.

WG&L is beefing up a program to help those in need. WG&L already had a program in place to help people having financial trouble because of something like a major surgery, or a funeral, but lately, the calls are coming from people who have had their work hours cut, or have been laid off. So they added more money to a program called HOPE to help those customers out.

Beyond your mortgage or rent payment, your utility bill may be the next largest bill you get each month, and each month it seems to get harder to pay for Monique Jackson.

She said, "I've been here all day running from office to office trying to pay my bill. I told them I need a discount." A way to ease the pain of payment.

"A lot of people are laid off," said Jackson.  "Even people with big jobs are laid off from the factories and everything. People that I know." While Monique is fortunate enough to still have a job, there are a lot of people without that benefit.

Water, Gas and Light is receiving more than 50 calls a day from customers asking for help on their bills. "Almost every phone call now is somebody that's either been laid off or has lost their job," said Lorie Farkas.

People who have always paid before, but just aren't getting a paycheck, to pay their bills. Farkas said, "The component we're seeing are people who've never had to ask for help, people that worked at Cooper, that worked at Merck. People that never, ever thought they'd need help."

That's why the Water, Gas and Light Commission allotted $5,000 a month for the next fiscal year to go to those in trouble. "I'm so proud of our board that they've made this effort and I think it's going to make a huge impact on our customers."

It's important to mention that this program is a one time deal. A person can only be assisted one time per year through the HOPE program. You also must meet eligibility requirements to qualify for assistance. To find out more, contact Water, Gas and Light at 883-8330.

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