AARP, along with other community-based organizations, applaud the efforts of Missouri legislators and Gov. Jay Nixon to fund the Utilicare program this year. This program helps thousands of Missourians with critical funding needed to help pay utility bills. This year, according to the National Climatic Data Center, energy demand was 27 percent higher than average this winter.
Utilicare funding was granted on the last day of Missouri's Cold Weather Rule which provides utility customers the most lenient payment plans and thereby helps avoid disconnection for non-payment during the coldest periods of the year. The funds will be distributed among 18 Community Action Agencies and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.
Also approved by the Missouri House for fiscal year 2015 beginning July 1, 2014 was $6 million for Utilicare. Those funds will also be used to help other needy individuals defray higher utility bills due to the colder winter.
Bi-partisanship support from members of the Missouri House and Senate made Utilicare funding possible and included the leadership of House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Rick Stream of Kirkwood, Senate Appropriations Chair Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia, House Majority Floor Leader Rep. John Diehl of Town and Country, and Senator Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis.
The Missouri Cold Weather Rule:
- Is in effect Nov. 1 through March 31.
- Prohibits disconnection of service when the temperature is forecasted to drop below 32 degrees for the following 24-hour period.
- Requires utilities to notify you by mail at least 10 days prior to date of the proposed disconnection.
- Requires utilities to make further attempts to contact you within 96 hours prior to disconnection by either a second written notice, a door hanger or at least two telephone call attempts.
- Requires utilities to notify you about possible financial help in paying your bills.
- Prohibits disconnection of registered low-income elderly or disabled customers who make a minimum payment.
- Allows you to budget your payments over 12 months.