Dec 16, 2020 5:09 PM

Poverty In Our Area: Utility Assistance

Posted Dec 16, 2020 5:09 PM

By Patricia Jones, Task Force on Poverty 

Some of the largest bills people face each month are their utility bills. We all need electricity, water and heat! But sometimes, especially in the winter, these bills can be budget breakers. 

Low income people who have trouble making their utility payments can get help! The best place to start is the local office of Northwest Community Action Partnership (NCAP). NCAP has offices in Chadron, Rushville, and Alliance. For emergency assistance in Box Butte County, phone 308-762-4960 and leave a voice mail. Realize there may be a backlog of clients and it does take several days to process an application.

To receive assistance, a person would have to complete an application and verify their income. NCAP can then provide vouchers from the City of Alliance Neighbors Helping Neighbors utility assistance fund or from the Salvation Army for Black Hills Energy bills.

The City of Alliance established Neighbors Helping Neighbors to provide residents a voluntary opportunity to contribute to other Alliance residents who need assistance paying their utility bills. All donations provided through the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program will be used to help residents of the City of Alliance service area to pay their delinquent city utility bills. The funds are administered by NCAP.

To be eligible for assistance under this program, applicants must: 

  1. Complete an application form, 
  2. Reside in the City of Alliance utilities service area, 
  3. Be a current utility customer of a City of Alliance, 
  4. Have a delinquent residential utility bill, subject to disconnect, 
  5. Provide proof of income to NCAP. Phone 308-762-4960 for application assistance.

Utility customers of the City of Alliance may donate to Neighbors Helping Neighbors by adding a one-time and/or recurring donation to their monthly utility bill. Those who elect to participate should complete the form on the City’s website, www.cityofalliance.net/419/Neighbors-Helping-Neighbors, and return it to the City utility customer service office so that donations may be added to the utility bill. Donations may be tax-deductible and a statement of your gift will be provided at year-end.

Black Hills Energy works with NCAP and the Salvation Army to provide emergency heating assistance to those unable to pay their company’s natural gas bill through a program called HeatShare. HeatShare is funded by the charitable giving arm of Black Hills Energy, its employees, and their customers.

Assistance is available to those experiencing financial hardship. Vouchers are based on household income and can be used to help pay Black Hills Energy utility bills if the client faces a disconnect, or to help repair or replace a gas furnace, while staying under the limit of $750 a year.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has an energy assistance program called LIHEAP. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps low income households stay safe and healthy by providing financial assistance to offset the costs of heating and cooling. LIHEAP particularly helps households that pay a high portion of household income for home energy to meet immediate home energy needs.

The LIHEAP Program provides heating assistance, cooling assistance, year-round crisis assistance, emergency furnace repair and replacement, fan program, and weatherization services for eligible Nebraska citizens/households. LIHEAP in Nebraska is solely funded through a federal grant. Phone the Alliance DHHS office at 308-763-2900 or the state office at 402-471-3121 for information about how to apply.

Finally, the Alliance Christian Ministerial Association is able to provide $75 in assistance once every six months for utilities. The Hemingford Ministerial Association will pay a utility bill once a year as a last resort. 

Isn’t it great to live in an area that can provide so much assistance to those in need! If you need help with your bills, be sure to reach out to these agencies. If you have been blessed this year, please consider making a donation to Neighbors Helping Neighbors, the Salvation Army, United Way, or any organization that provides assistance during these difficult times.