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No air help

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July 12, 2007

Albany -- Every day this week, much of South Georgia has endured afternoon heat indices well above 100. That can be dangerous and costly if you can afford to run your air conditioner. A program that helps struggling families do that is now struggling to keep those services going. 

Truth is, a growing number of people struggle just to make ends meet. Now add the heat as a factor. Since it's so hot outside, we tend to crank up that air and that can be an extra expense many simply can't afford.

At 70 years old, Betty Ramage still loves to smell the flowers. "I get up early in the morning when its cool and see the flowers and work with them."

But when the sun rises, don't expect her to be outside for long. "When it gets hot, I'm gone to the air conditioning."

She has the luxury of A.C. since she stays at Albany Health Care Nursing Home. But many people at home aren't so lucky.

"People are still having problems meeting their needs when it comes to cooling their homes and we're still having many people present themselves for services," says Myrtis Ndawula, CEO of the Southwest Georgia Action Council.

The Dougherty County Neighborhood Service Center is a branch of the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council. When temperatures soar, they help low income people pay their utility bills, sometimes up to $200 per family.

This year, there's a problem. "The funds just are not there," Ndawula says.

The state simply isn't funding the program at all. "Is this the first time this has happened?" we asked.

"No its not the first time this has happened. We received some of those funds for the cooling program last year but that was the first time in several years we had it," Ndawula says.

For many, the news isn't cool. "It gets too hot. Period," Ramage says.

Organizers say the program is necessary. They serve 14 counties. None of them are getting the money. 

The Council hopes Congress will make an emergency appropriation and send money to the state this summer.

They say if you know someone who doesn't have air, especially an elderly person, look after them and make sure they stay cool somehow.  

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