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Having a hard time paying your power bill? You're not alone

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

October 9, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - High fuel, food and home costs are causing more people to fall behind on their bills. Georgia Power has seen an 11% increase in disconnects this year. Water, Gas and Light says it has actually seen a decrease in the number of people seeking help to pay their bills, but a big change in the type of person needing help.

WG&L says there is always a high amount of people that need help paying their bills each month, or request an extension on payment. Last July, August and September, there were about 5,000 requests each month. For the same period this year, the number was actually down slightly, but more than just the poverty stricken are reaching out for help.

It's a struggle many of us face everyday. Finding just enough money to pay the bills. "Try a little harder and do a little extra stuff, side jobs," said Jesse Jacobs.  He doesn't have a steady job. "Employment is real hard to find."

So he does what he can to make sure his bills are paid on time. "I mow lawns, do whatever I do to make ends meet." But fewer people are able to meet those ends. "Many of my friends. It's been really hard for everybody."

Lorie Farkas, with WG&L says the utility is used to a high number of requests for help paying bills, because it serves a lot of impoverished customers. She said, "We already were in a place where our customers were having a difficult time paying bills."

Compared to the requests from last year, the number hasn't changed much, but the type of person needing help has. "What I have seen an increase in, is a lot more people wanting help on their bill saying they've been laid off from local jobs."

While Farkas says she understands people are struggling, the utility can't absorb the cost.  "We don't generate power, we have to purchase power and its anywhere from $4-6 Million a month that we have to pay so we can provide power to our customers."

Farkas says she's also seen an increase in people with lower than normal bills needing help paying. WG&L spent so much money through their assistance programs in August, that there is no money to help people with their September bills.

One way to keep your electric bill low, is to have an energy audit conducted. It's free to Water, Gas and Light customers and may help save you money.

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