Program helps Cumberland County families struggling to pay utility bills

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Low temperatures mean higher energy bills. Across the state, applications are being accepted to help people struggling to pay their heat bills this winter.

December is a priority month for the disabled and elderly. Natalie Simmons’ mother Deborah had a stroke and needs care around the clock. This time of the year can be a challenge.

Deborah had a stroke and needs around the clock care.

“This month it was really rough for us,” Simmons said.

Natalie wasn’t sure how they were going to pay their electric bill.

“I couldn’t let her be in the dark. I couldn’t let her be in the cold no heat,” she said.

The family is on a fixed income. When their stove broke, they had to take money meant for their utility bill to pay for a stove.

“I really panicked because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Natalie said.

Natalie went to the Cumberland County Department of Social Services to fill out an application for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP).

“Being without utilities could be detrimental to them and be a health risk, so yes, it does bring on some anxiety and being anxious about whether I’m going to get these funds,” said Vivian Tookes with CCDSS.

Natalie’s family was approved for about $400.

“It’s like hitting the lottery because you really don’t know if you’re going to get approved if you met the qualifications, but then when she tells you ‘OK, you’ve been approved,’ it’s like ‘Ahhhh.’”

CCDSS will be open Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. to help people apply for the program. Applications will be taken until March 31 or until the federal money is used.

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