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January 16, 2010

Just getting by: Options available to help pay for heating bills

Lingering, bitter cold temperatures may have forced you to turn the thermostat up a few degrees recently.

The result may be higher heating bills. That’s bad news for thousands of residents in Murray and Whitfield counties, particularly those who are unemployed and senior citizens on fixed incomes. Officials with area power companies say there are several options — both locally and at the state level — for people struggling to pay their heating bills.

The state Public Service Commission warned residents last week that the cold spell may translate into higher natural gas bills. December 2009, for example, was 30 percent colder than December 2008. Natural gas prices are “significantly” lower than last year, but higher heating costs are expected because of more usage.

Low-income residents can contact their local Community Action Agency for information regarding receiving a one-time $350 grant for paying energy bills. For more information call 800-869-1150.

Dalton Utilities and North Georgia Electric Membership Corp. (NGEMC) refer residents having difficulty paying their heating and cooling bills to several community organizations. Whitfield County has 12 such organizations (including several churches, the Dalton Organization of Churches United for People and the Salvation Army), while Murray County has six groups. NGEMC also has information on its Web site ( for heat pump financing for qualified homeowners.

Dalton Utilities participates in a program called Project SHARE that transfers money donated by customers to the Salvation Army, which then provides help to families in emergency situations. Customers agree to add $1, $2, $5 or more to their regular monthly utility bill. More information about Project SHARE, including a sign-up form, is available on The donation can be mailed to Dalton Utilities with your bill and payment, faxed to (706) 529-1094 or dropped off at the utility at 1200 V.D. Parrott Jr. Parkway.

Georgia Power participates in Project SHARE as well. The company also provides a senior citizens discount of up to $14 for metered service each month. The discount does not apply to sales taxes or fuel cost recovery. Criteria include being 65 or older and an annual combined gross household income not exceeding $14,355. For information, visit

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