Spike in utility bills prompts emergency assistance programs

ELKHART, Ind.--The temperatures may have dropped, but the utility bills aren’t coming down.

The summer months are notorious for high utility bills, but this year’s extreme weather has also brought some extreme bills causing thousands of people in Elkhart County to seek financial help.

The Community Church Services as well as Township Trustees and the Salvation Army are all working together in Elkhart to help residents pay their looming bills. But, the finances are limited and with demand increasing, there are plenty of people not getting the help they need.

 “When we can’t help someone, it’s difficult,” said Vonda Horst, the Financial Assistance Director for Church Community Services.  

During the summer months, Horst has her hands full.

“June has been- historically has been- the month where we get a lot of demand for utilities. And I’m not sure what that’s all about but June and July tend to be a bit higher,” explained Horst.  

Right now, the CCS is providing utility assistance to about 50 families throughout Elkhart County. But, they aren’t the only ones providing aid.

“We work with the Trustee and the Salvation Army. Clients have to go there first before they come to us,” said Horst.  

It’s only after someone has sought help from the Township Trustee and the Salvation Army, which he or she can go to the CCS. And then, if the individual has already received help in the past, he isn’t eligible for help again.

“What’s frustrating is we don’t know where they’re going to get help after we help them out,” said Horst.  “We don’t know if they’re going to be able to get help. Hopefully we’ve given them a hand up and not a hand out.”

The United Way and Real Services in both South Bend and Elkhart are also offering utility assistance for eligible individuals.

A representative from the United Way told ABC 57 that anyone who needs help should call 2-1-1 to find out whether they qualify for emergency assistance.

Otherwise, the CCS recommends contacting your Township Trustee to find out how much financial assistance you could be eligible for.

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