Colder days bringing longer lines for those seeking heat help

On one of the coldest mornings in recent months, more than 75 people bundled up in coats gathered at Augusta's May Park community center before 6:30 a.m. today.

Within two hours, that number grew to more than 125.

The scene has been the same every morning at the community center for the last several weeks, said Annette Johnson, an intake worker for CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority.

Richmond and Columbia county residents apply for the authority’s energy assistance program at the center Monday through Friday.

This morning, the waiting residents were signing paperwork to verify their incomes and family household size in order to receive the money for their energy bills.

There’s an increase in the need each year when temperatures drop, Ms. Johnson said.

“Hard times,” she said are the two words that describe why so many people are seeking the authority’s assistance.

Lena Traylor, of Appling, drove from her home in the Clarks Hill area to downtown Augusta this morning hoping that she would get some financial assistance from the authority.

A senior citizen, Ms. Traylor said it’s hard to heat her home when temperatures drop below 40 degrees. Social Security is her only income, so the $310 the organization granted her will be helpful, she said.

“I try to conserve. I don’t run any heat at night, but it’s hard when all you have is Social Security,” she said. “This is really going to be a blessing to me. This will ease some of the burden on me.”

The scene has been the same at Aiken-Barnwell Community Action Agency, said Marieanne Petersen, senior administrator for the commission. As December begins, the organization is coming close to depleting its annual funds for energy assistance.

“We realize that people are working less hours. Some have not found work or are unable to work,” she said. “That’s why we have appointments lined up to assist people for the next three weeks.”

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