ANDERSON — Subzero temperatures and extreme conditions will likely produce some of the largest utility bills in years for local residents. The Friend to Friend Utility Assistance Fund provides help to struggling local families at risk of losing heat in their homes because they lack of resources to afford their utilities.
United Way of Madison County, the city of Anderson, the city of Elwood and the Community Access Network (CAN) will partner again this year to support the countywide assistance program. The program, which began in 2001, has provided assistance to thousands of Madison County residents over the last 12 years. Additional support is needed from the community to fully meet this year’s anticipated need. One hundred percent of donations collected for this fund will help qualified Madison County residents reduce their utility bills during the coldest winter months, a United Way spokeswoman said.
“The need for utility assistance is great every year. However, with this year’s record-low temperatures and the fact that we still have many more cold days ahead, the need will be greater than we’ve seen in years,” said Kim Williams, vice president for United Way of Madison County. “We need individuals and businesses to step up and help families stay warm safely rather than give them no choice but to turn to unsafe heating sources.”
Families are protected from having utilities disconnected between Dec. 1 and March 15 by Indiana law. However, residents are still responsible for heating costs that accumulate during that period. On March 15, when temperatures may still be low, at-risk residents could face utility disconnection if they are unable to pay their existing utility bill.
Utility assistance is currently available until funds run out. Individuals can be connected to assistance by calling 2-1-1 or contacting any CAN partner organization including the Salvation Army, Operation Love, St. Vincent DePauw, the Alexandria Community Center, First United Methodist Church or any St. Vincent outreach staff.