Options for paying winter utility bills

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) - Many East Tennesseans are struggling to pay high utility bills, especially from January. The bills they are receiving in February reflect this. In Oak Ridge, Wendy Schaefer and her husband were shocked at their bill, even though they received a new HVAC unit through special program just a few months ago.

Schaefer said, "Our bill was due in January. It was $268.20. Then our bill for February was $497.93."

The city put out an advisory so utility customers would not be shocked. But in most cases, Oak Ridge still expect people pay their bills.
Oak Ridge Electric Director Jack Suggs, "In some instances we may be able to help them with a bill if they come in early and talk to us in terms of maybe spreading that out, but they would need to come in and talk to us and get ahead of the curve on that."

In Loudon County, the Good Samaritan Center helps some people in need pay their utility bills. Cindy Black is Executive Director, "Then our clients that come in for service, they have no insulation, less secure windows. The need is gonna be really great this season because it's been so cold for so long."

The Shaefers are working on home improvement projects to make their home even more energy efficient." We keep our house at 70, gonna cut back on that, make it probably 65 if we have to."

Leaders said it is best to try communicating with your utility office and pay what you can, rather then ignoring a high bill. Then your local utility may be able to refer you to an agency that can help with heating assistance.