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Albany WG&L says HOPE Program help needed

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

September 25, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany City officials say more people in Albany are facing tough economic times and having trouble paying their utility bills.

The Albany Water Gas and Light Commission Board today started work to put thousand of dollars into their HOPE program to help people in need pay their utility bills. But they wonder if that will be enough.

HOPE stands for Helping Others Pay for Energy.  And WG&L Board members want to give you a chance to help bring HOPE to people who can't pay their bills.

Lorie Farkas says the number of people coming to her office in need of help from the HOPE program is staggering.

Albany WG&L Assistant Manager for Customer Relations Lorie Farkas said "Downstairs we saw over 2000 people who said they were having difficulty this month paying their bill. That's 200 people a day coming through our doors saying I can't pay my utility bill."

Farkas said there has already been a huge influx of people saying they have been laid off their jobs.  Very troubling the morning after the President warned the Wall Street Crisis could cause many more future layoffs.

WG&L board members approved the budgeting of around $15,000 of money returned from state utilities to the HOPE Program, but Farkas said even that much won't solve the problem.

 Farkas said "It really won't. It will be only a drop in the bucket."

Board Members also plan to bring back the 5-2-1 plan, where people can over pay their bill by five, two, or one dollar, and check on their bill that the extra money go to the HOPE Program.

Mayor Willie Adams said "there are some people in the community I'm sure that would readily do that. Because some people have been blessed a little bit above others. And they would check off to help somebody with their energy."

WG&L last used the 5-2-1 plan in 1993,  but board members say it could be time again to ask the community for it's help.

Farkas said "We just need to shore up a little bit, and we hope anybody that can give to the HOPE program will certainly give to it. It's just a dire situation right now."

Right now about 12 churches in Albany contribute each month to the HOPE program, and recently a church in Sylvester held fund raisers to help the people in need here.

The HOPE Program is primarily for Albany Water Gas and Light Customers who have trouble meeting their bills because of illness or layoffs. People can get extensions if they bring Doctor's bills and notes, or notices of job loss.

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