Originally created 05/01/06

Utility fund is unused



ATLANTA - The Georgia Public Service Commission was hard-pressed this winter to spend $965,000 the agency set aside to help low-income seniors maintain gas service.

The commission and gas marketers will look for seniors in need through May, then give most of what's left to the Salvation Army's Project Share, which will use the money to pay utility bills statewide for the young and elderly.

The commission's program ends in the spring. At the end of April, the commission still had $867,860 left.

The money is part of $1 million Atlanta Gas Light set aside for consumer education during the next five years under the terms of its 2005 rate case settlement. Based on estimates from the company, commissioners thought nearly 2,000 low-income seniors would need help keeping their gas on.

Finding them proved to be a challenge. Atlanta Gas Light found only 783 people eligible for a senior discount, and most had been cut off from other marketers. Only 68 had been disconnected from the regulated provider.

After enlisting help from marketers, the commission identified 4,600 low-income seniors in danger of losing service and will work until May 31 to reach them and make payment plans.

To date, 372 have been located and helped.