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Extreme Winter Weighing Heavy on NC Seniors

February 7, 2011

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Dipping temperatures are raising heating bills for all North Carolinians, and many seniors are feeling a heavy burden on their fixed incomes.

Weatherization money from federal stimulus dollars is helping ease the cost by equipping seniors with more efficient ways to heat their homes, but community action agencies across the Tarheel State have thousands on the waiting lists for help.

Ben Watts, director of Community Action Opportunities in Asheville, says the extra expense can be a real problem for many older people.

"They have to stretch that money. When the price of oil goes up, then more of their income is going to have to go to pay that bill. That means that there's going to be less available for the food that they need."

Donia Rice contacted Community Action Opportunities to get help for her mother and uncle. Both were having trouble paying their heating bills, and her uncle had a furnace that was emitting carbon monoxide.

"I guess they would just go hungry eventually, because they barely make it. There's no way they could have the means to get the things they need like some people have."

The federal funding for weatherization programs expires next March. So far, Ben Watts says they've used about half their funds available.

North Carolina has a help line staffed by the United Way that points people to community resources for help. The phone number is 211.


Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC