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Summer's Here, But Energy Bill Nightmares Still Haunt Coloradans

May 26, 2009

Lakewood, CO - As summer heats things up in Colorado, it might seem that fewer families will have to worry about energy bills like they do in the winter. A recent study, however, finds a record number of households having trouble paying their utility bills.

Mag Strittmatter, executive director of the Jeffco Action Center, remembers one woman who recently went out of her way to be at the front of the line to get utility assistance from the Lakewood office.

"She came with two of her children in tow and waited outside our building at 3:30 in the morning - and the irony was that she was the third person in line."

The woman had had her utilities turned off for almost two weeks, Strittmatter recalls, adding that she has never before seen such a high level of need for energy assistance.

"This is the most exceptional - there's nothing to compare to what we've seen, and I'm not sure if we've seen the worst of it yet."

The survey, from the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association, reveals an unprecedented number of families making sacrifices to pay for electricity and home heating. It notes that many households go without important medications to be able to pay the bills, and that high energy costs also have contributed to the foreclosure crisis.

Some critics say energy assistance is unfair to those who work hard to pay their bills, but Strittmatter points out that many hard-working Coloradans have faced unforeseen challenges in the troubled economy, and that providing such assistance actually saves everyone money.

"It costs less to society by helping people stay in their homes than it would be to society if people were to be rendered homeless."

See the survey results online at www.neada.org.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - CO