Last year when the water bill became astronomical, I was able to go to NW Ministerial Alliance, at the referral of City of Portland, to get a discount on the water bill because of our low household income.
When persistance of reports that heating oil and natural gas bills will soar this winter due to the hurricane devastation and other factors, we -- like many other low income and poverty level families -- have been frightened at the prospect of having to pay higher heating prices when we are already stretched to the limit by high rent, food, and other necessary monthly expenses.
Since our local energy suppliers are essentially monopolies catering to shareholders, we don't have the luxury of shopping around.
A call to NW Natural resulted in another referral to NW Ministerial Alliance. However, after traveling to their office, I learned that they were only making appointments for adjustments for two things: water and natural gas. And in the case of natural gas, there is no plan offered to reduce rates for the low income. There are only two options: 1) to set up a plan with NW Natural to balance out payments throughout the year so that the gas company gets all of its blood money in the end but the consumer pays a higher price in the summer and the same price in the winter (so that a lower price is not paid in summer and an astronomical price in the winter months); at present they don't even know how to estimate this accurately because no one knows how high rates will go or 2) to let the bill go unpaid for one or two months and then apply to NW Ministerial Alliance for a hardship voucher. It is the equivalent of waiting until you have a full-blown illness before seeking help rather than managing health so that catastrophic illness does not happen nor impact your family.
We attended the city's winterization workshop and have done everything possible to winterize our rental house, with the OK of the landlord. However, other than shutting off certain rooms of the house, it will not be possible to NOT heat the house (as we have done in late Spring and Summer) when temperatures begin to dip below zero because it will risk damaging the house, risking freezing pipes, etc.
I wondered if anyone else had suggestions about other programs that we may not know about or if people had useful ideas about how to keep the anticipated electric and natural gas bills at bay this winter.
It's no lie that a lot of people are going to be going without to pay these bills, or - if they can't - will be out on the street or moving into the basements of family members (if such family members are in better shape than they are).
This evening I watched with some disgust as national news aired a story about the anticipated rise in natural gas costs. What was their biggest concern? That if low income Americans had to spend most of their income on heating and gasoline they wouldn't be able to shop enough during the Christmas holidays to do their bit to support our economy. Pah! We haven't had any discretionary income to speak of for so long that the thought of big Christmas shopping excursions is not even remote possibility.
Guess we will have to rely upon the shrinking number of those who are living off of the fat of the land to buoy business during the coldest months of the year . . .