> SOUTHERN INDIANA — As the cold weather takes its grip, customers who need extra support with electricity bills could get up to $300 from Duke Energy.
The energy company announced its plan to contribute $3.5 million over five years to the Indiana Energy Assistance Program.
“There’s always a demand for energy assistance, but it’s especially needed as our economy recovers,” Doug Esamann, president of Duke Energy Indiana, said in a press release. “Over the past decade, our Helping Hand program has provided more than $4 million in assistance to customers in need. This year’s funding triples the amount each customer can receive.”
Angeline Protogere, communications manager for Duke Energy Indiana, said Duke customers who are signed up for the Energy Assistance Program through the state don’t need to apply separately for Duke’s initiative.
“When an individual applies for that program, they are automatically screened by the local Community Action agency to see if they’re eligible for this funding,” Protogere said. “They don’t need to apply for anything. It’s something that they’re evaluated for as part of their application for the energy assistance programming that’s administered by the state.”
Phil Ellis, director of community development for Community Action of Southern Indiana, said the agency follows property index guidelines to determine whether a household qualifies for the program.
He said the cutoff income for an individual is $16,335, a household of two cuts off at $22,065, three at $27,795 and four at $33,525.
Applicants need to bring a copy of their lease if they rent, Social Security cards for each member of the household, proof of income for the last 12 months and a copy of their energy bills.
He said since Nov. 1, the three offices have provided assistance to 3,342 households.
“We have a lot of money to spend and we’re encouraging anyone who feels they’re eligible to contact us,” Ellis said. “We want to make sure families take advantage of this benefit.”
Before Duke made the extra donations, customers were only eligible for $100 off their bills. If funds are still available by summer, they may be used for cooling costs as well.