Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Assistance available to help pay heating bills

January 24, 2001

For Kansas residents struggling to pay winter gas bills, there may be help.

Through a newly established Gas Assistance Program, up to 7,500 Kansas Gas Service customers may be eligible for assistance.

Beth Bellizzi, county public relations director for the American Red Cross, which is administering the program, said KGS customers whose income is between 130 and 200 percent of the poverty level, and who are not receiving any other state utility assistance may qualify for a 50 percent reduction on gas bills.

Bellizzi noted that customers already receiving funds from Project DESERVE, a program to assist with heating and cooling bills, are not eligible for GAP. The first step in gaining the reduction is to contact the Red Cross at (913) 682-6222 to obtain an application. Completed applications must be returned to the Red Cross by March 31. Gas bills are retroactive to Jan. 2 and will extend until June.

Those who qualify for assistance, within about one month of filing their application, will see a credit on their gas bill. Also, they will receive a one-time check for $85 per person.

"The idea for the checks is that people would use that money to supplement what's coming through GAP," Bellizzi said. "If people need to use that for buying food or blankets, that's their call."

The Red Cross, which just learned of the GAP program in early January, has been inundated with calls, Bellizzi said.

"They've been calling fast and furious," she said. "The phones have been ringing off the hook."

Bellizzi said record-setting cold temperatures had most likely increased interest in the program.

"The cold has made an impact on the peoples' lives," she said.

James Lambert, community relations manager for KGS, said the utility began planning the program last July.

"We were trying to figure out ways to help our customers come wintertime when we knew we were going to be hit by extremely high prices," Lambert said.

The funds for the GAP program, which may total $3 million, originally came from a portion of ad valorem taxes collected by Kansas Gas Service for the Kansas pipeline producers.

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