Utility bills a shock?

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By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

After weeks of frigid temperatures – and more winter weather potentially on the way – it’s likely that some Keizer residents are in for a surprise when their utility bills arrive.

“For our existing utility customers we provide discounted sewer rates for qualifying senior citizens or disabled heads of households,” said Tim Wood, Keizer finance director.

Sewer rates typically account for more than 50 percent of the standard Keizer utility bill. Roughly three dozen households take advantage of discounted rates. To apply for a discounted rate, city officials require proof of income such as an income tax return or annual social security statement.

While the city can provide discounts for some customers, those needing short term assistance are referred to The Salvation Army or St. Vincent de Paul for help. To find out more about Salvation Army options, call 503 585-6688 or visit www.salem.kroccenter.or. Information on St. Vincent de Paul programs is available at svdpsalem.org or by calling 503 364-5672. Wood said only a handful of Keizer residents seek such help in a given month.

For homeowners with natural gas bills, Northwest Natural offers several options for alleviating the strain caused by sharp bill increases. Customers can enroll in programs that spread out the cost of the average year’s worth of bills or work out payment plans that will keep them from having their gas shut off. Very low or fixed income customers can apply for assistance through the federally-funded Low Income Energy Assistance  program. Visit www.nwnatural.com for more information.

Portland General Electric offers several assistance programs that can help cover the cost of unexpected bills as well as payment plan and due date options. Some families can also qualify for free weatherization assistance. For more information, visit www.portlandgeneral.com.

Salem Electric customers may qualify for a one-time payment assistance of $150 to $225 per heating season (January to April). Priority is given to seniors and those with disabilities. For more information or to schedule an appointment to talk about option, call 503-362-3601.

The Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency can also offer assistance ranging from bill assistance to weatherization services. Visit www.mwvcaa.org for details.

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