Residents unable to find help in energy assistance programs -

Residents unable to find help in energy assistance programs

( -- Residents who turned on their air conditioners to fight the heat wave last month are finding themselves in a fight for utility bill assistance.

In the St. Louis area, residents are wrapping up a dangerously hot summer and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and other elected leaders are encouraging families to turn on their air conditioners and said there are agencies that can help if they have trouble paying their utility bill.

Twenty area residents have died from the heat this season and many did not have their air conditioners running.  "We have Cool Down St. Louis, which helps with some utility assistance.  We want them to turn on their air conditioners if they have them," Mayor Slay said. 

Some families are finding it hard to get assistance because the programs designed to help them have run out of money.  The fact is, the list of families needing energy assistance is so long that some families are being turned away.

A Facebook user is on that list and she contacted News 4 for help after she was denied energy bill assistance.  Nikki Malone got her huge electric bill, which covered last month's heatwave.  She kept her air conditioner on during the heatwave, but she is unemployed, so she went looking for help.  Malone learned that the assistance program she contacted is out of funds until October 1st.

Gentry Trotter is with Cool Down St. Louis which is one of several sources of funding for 15 non-profits that provide utility assistance.  His group donated $7,500 to a metro-east organization on Wednesday.  He said that is proof there is money to help, but the help is prioritized.

Seniors and disabled residents get first priority, then the low income.  Agencies are providing assistance right now, but the line to get help is very long and at times, agencies are running out of money.

If you find yourself in Malone's situation, Ameren says the first thing you need to do is contact them and they might be able to work out a payment plan.

If you need help with your energy bills, call Cool Down St. Louis at 314-241-7668 or go to their website.  Also, if the agency you contact is out of funding, ask to be placed on a waiting list so when new donations come in you will be in line for assistance.

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