Help for energy bills available

Community Budget Center gets grant for heating, lighting bill assistance

For some, paying the bills is a constant struggle. This winter, increasing energy costs have been hard on everyone, but especially hard on the less fortunate. But help is available.

The Community Budget Center, a non-profit thrift store, has received a grant aimed at helping those in need.

The Community Budget Center is a private, non-profit, self-funding charity. The Center accepts donations of clothing and household items and sells them, sometimes giving their merchandise directly to those in need. All profits are used to supply food, shelter, clothing, medical and transportation assistance to the needy.

The CBC was awarded a grant of $2,625 from the Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation to help area residents with unusually high heating bills. This fund will be distributed throughout the community on a most-needed basis, which is decided on a case-by-case process.

Once an individual or family is approved, the Community Budget Center will make payments directly to the utility company concerned. The funds cannot be used to pay deposits, nor are undocumented residents eligible.

The Center is a source for immediate aide, making sure a household can pay its utility bill for that month, while that household is making preparations for a long-term solution, such as LEAP, if necessary.

According to Budget Center Board Treasurer Charlotte Craft, the Center has spent more than $1,600 helping 312 households in Moffat County in this year.

"In the past, [the Community Budget Center] was only able to fund a piece of the bill," usually in addition to what churches and the Salvation Army had given in other assistance funds, Craft said. "With this grant, we can cover a household's entire bill for that month, keep the utility service working. We are short term help, and all our money is spent locally."

Applying for this particular fund at the Center is fairly straightforward. Anyone who has a great enough need can apply by filling out a form at the Community Budget Center, 555 Yampa Ave. The form is then be turned over to the Center's Board for consideration.

"We verify the information on the application, and if it's a situation where we can help, we do," Craft said. "Each situation is reviewed individually. Generally, if someone is in subsidized housing, they're not eligible for assistance. However, if there is a financial emergency, we will consider them."

According to Craft, the grant was scheduled to come out later. But due to the great need and high energy costs, the grant was expedited and distributed early.

The Community Budget Center isn't a families only option for assistance. If someone has a problem covering their gas bill, for example, a possible first step is to begin with Social Services, according to Robin Knoche, Operations Assistant for Greeley Gas. The Low Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) offered through Social Services could then begin handling the case.

At a institution like Moffat County United Way, the options are a little more varied.

"What we typically do, since we don't directly fund any agencies, is refer anyone with this need to the Community Budget Center or the Salvation Army," United Way Director Corrie Scott said. "Also, there is the Needy Assistance Program, run by the police, which we do fund."

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