DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Although we are all thinking of ways to keep cool in this hot weather, some folks are worrying about how they’ll keep warm this winter.
That’s the case for a 68-year-old Durham woman who is on a fixed income and needs to fork over several hundred dollars in back payments to make sure she has heat this winter.
Barbara Paschall is between a rock and an empty bank account with a looming fuel oil bill staring her in the face.
“Living on social security is not the easiest thing to do as you get older,” she said.
To help make every penny count, she grows spinach, radishes, onions and some spices in a little container garden on her front porch.
She takes 26 prescription medications a day and the rent on her Durham home just increased by $300 a month.
“I have to decide if I’m going to buy medicine this month or groceries this month —- or take half my medicine this month and buy food,” she said. “It’s always a struggle.”
Now, the oil tank behind her home has made the struggle a bit more difficult.
For the last 10 years, she’s paid $100 a month as part of a fuel oil budget plan, but now she’s in debt.
“This year I found myself owing $587.80,’’ Paschall said. “They said I used more oil than in years past.”
A letter from the oil company said the bill must be paid by the end of July, but when she went to Durham Social Services for help she learned they don’t pay fuel oil bills until November.
Right now the agency is helping people who are struggling to pay air conditioning bills.
In addition, Paschall’s monthly budget for fuel oil is going up to $170 in August, which will put more of strain on her purse as she struggles to catch up on oil payments.
“Instead of paying $170 I’ll try and pay $200 a month which will really stretch my budget, but I have to pay it.”
CBS 17 consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia went to the oil company to see what could be done.
Although he wouldn’t appear on camera owner, Creedmoor Fuel Service Joe Phillips promised they will work with Paschall as long as she is paying something towards reducing her fuel bill.
In addition, Sbraccia gave Paschall a list he compiled of agencies and other organizations that might be able to help.
“I’ll check every one of them,” she said. “I appreciate it.”
Creedmoor Fuel says it’s not making a special deal just for Paschall.
The owner says the company will work with anyone who needs help making fuel payments because they don’t want people to freeze in the winter.
If you need help with a utility or fuel bill and live in Durham here is a list.
Here are other agencies and organizations that might be able to help:
- The United Way also has options available to those who need help under its 2-1-1 help Banner.
- Utilities across the state have programs to help consumers who are struggling with their electric or gas bills.
- There are also North Carolina utility bill and energy assistance programs.
- The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has lists of low income assistance services as well as a list of energy assistance programs.
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