State officials: brutal winter freezes cooling assistance


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Families that need help paying cooling bills this summer may be on their own.  State officials say they’ve run out of money after helping pay nearly $48M worth of heating bills this past winter.

The state’s top priority is keeping people warm during the winter.  Money left over is what’s used to fund statewide cooling assistance programs.  But, after this brutal winter there’s not any money left to help those in need.

“It has been a long time since we have not offered a summer cooling program,” Pamela Brookshire with Community Action of Northeast Indiana (CANI) said.

Since the late 80s, Pamela Brookshire has been helping those in need at the Community Action of Northeast Indiana office in downtown Fort Wayne.  This is the first she has heard of the state not having enough money to fund a cooling assistance program.

“We don’t know what the rest of the summer will bring. I’m sure that if it gets incredibly hot, the feds will release additional dollars. That has happened in the past. That’s actually how we got summer cooling in the first place.”

Normally, those who qualify for heating assistance during the winter months get a one-time $50 credit towards a summer cooling bill.  That won’t happen this year.  Brookshire says those who are concerned should apply for their weatherization program and take other small steps to cut their energy bills this summer.

“That’s the best way to get energy savings so that utility bills hopefully come down and are more affordable. But old fashioned tips that my mother would tell me: close your curtains when it’s sunny outside, close the blinds.”

City leaders say they have a plan in place in case temperatures get dangerously high.

“When temperatures and conditions reach a certain level, we work with several agencies and collaboratively we determine when cooling stations should be opened,” spokesperson for the city of Fort Wayne John Perlich said, “We try to make sure we have all quadrants of the city identified so that people in each area of our city have access to a cooling center if indeed that is needed this summer.”

Brookshire says CANI will stay in touch with state officials and update those in need if funds become available.

 

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