Heat wave continues as people apply for relief

Louisville, KY - By Matt McCutcheon - e-mail | bio

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It almost sounds like a broken record, but Thursday is now expected to be the hottest day of 2010. The feels-like temperature is expected to top 100 degrees, with the actual high not far below that.

The temperature had risen to 89 degrees by noon Thursday, with an expected high of 96 degrees and a heat index of 102. Of course, the higher the temperature goes, the higher the electric bill gets as air conditioners work overtime to cool things down.

While it's temporary relief, the cost can be a lasting problem.

"It seems like it gets high every year," said Wendy Ross, one of many who applied Thursday for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Ross says knew there would a long wait when she first heard about the program.

"It is going to be a long line, but they help you," Ross said.

And Ross says she needs that help. A single, unemployed mother of three, Ross's LG&E bill can be as high as $300 a month for her two story home.

"I've got two boys, they like to play ball and my little girl she just likes to do everything," Ross said.

Each applicant will receive an average credit of $128 credit on their utility bills. That's money Wendy says will help her family pay for other day to day living expenses.

"Some trips, some little activities and programs for the kids that I didn't have the money for because I have to pay all the bills and TV wise, like cable, but we're making it though," Ross said.

Since the program started on July 12, hundreds of people have been spent hours in long lines just to get an appointment, with many being turned away and told to return the following day. That has left applicants wondering why there isn't a more simplified process in place so people don't have to wait hours in line.

"We're hoping to get in about 775 clients today," said Debbie Belt, with the Department of Housing & Family Services.

Officials say showing up in person is the best way, since many people applying for help have no computer to apply online, and Belt said using a call-in system to make appointments had disastrous results when it was tried before.

"We overloaded the phones for the building," Belt said. "We'd almost have to have a call center - that's the volume of calls that were coming in," Belt said.

Applicants can receive a one-time credit on their electric bill anywhere from $50-$175. The LIHEAP program directly pays that determined amount to electric providers like LG&E.

As of close of business Wednesday 1,1,52 people had applied. Officials estimate they will have enough money to accept an additional 1,275 applications, and they hope to have Thursday's 775 processed by the close of business. They are even staying late, making appointments to meet with applicants until 11 p.m.

More than $300,000 was up for grabs in Jefferson County, and $148,150 had been spoken for as of the close of business Wednesday.

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