The new proposed federal budget, which adds billions to defense but cuts domestic programs including utility assistance isn’t putting the elderly and low income first, according to Terry Tolbert from the Economic Opportunity Authority (EOA).
“The concern is that all the people that we would serve next year – would not be served – if this budget is approved,” said Tolbert. “That means many people who are seniors and people who are home bound would have their utilities cut off.”
Tolbert says last year, EOA was able to serve about 4,300 households with the $1.2 million it received in federal funding. But he says as many 30,000 households in Chatham County would qualify for some form of assistance (based on income) if funding was available. That’s why he’s concerned about losing the funding they normally receive. He says loss of current funding would mean the most vunerable would be left literally out in the cold. He says the one time payments of up to $350 per year can mean much more than the average person may realize. He says losing utilities means more than the lights, it means heat. “That means an increase in the number of people who have to to go the hospital for pnemonia and other health issues and people in public housing get kicked out if they can’t pay their utilities so that’s just a small portion of the problem,” said Tolbert.
Tolbert points out this is simply the proposed budget and he’s hoping many in Congress see what he believes is value in the utility assistance program. “That’s gold,” he says. “That one time yearly payment year makes a huge difference in that person’s household.”