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Tonight, 12 candidates will take the fourth Democratic debate stage in Westerville, Ohio. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will be there, despite considering a boycott of the event.

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Heat Relief for Low-Income Arizonans

June 7, 2010

PHOENIX, Ariz. - The summer heat can be a killer. But help is available for low-income Arizonans struggling to pay cooling costs: lower power rates, subsidies and weatherization assistance.

Arizona Community Action Association director Cynthia Zwick says helping families with their power bills can head off bigger problems.

"The inability to pay a utility bill is the second-leading cause of homelessness. When families don't have the funds to pay those bills, other things start to fall apart in their lives. And they can become ill."

If you need help, Zwick says the first step is to contact your local utility. She says they are willing to work with families to avoid disconnections and in many cases will set up payment plans. Further help is available by contacting your local community action agency, she adds.

Zwick points out that a family of four making up to $33,000 dollars a year can qualify for a reduced electric rate.

"All the major utility companies have a discount rate for income-eligible families. That would mean families living at 150 percent of poverty."

Another program will provide utility bill subsidies for folks making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, she says.

Community action agencies have an emergency fund to help folks who have fallen behind on their electric bills, Zwick says.

"There's some funding also available for deposits, if a deposit is a requirement. And there's funding available for assistance with a repair, and sometimes for replacing appliances in the home."

But Zwick cautions that money for energy assistance is limited. She estimates 500,000 Arizona homes are eligible, but only enough funding is available to help 30,000.

More information is available at

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ