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Kansas City nonprofit sees uptick in utility requests, worries winter will intensify demand

Redemptorist Center
Posted at 8:16 AM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 09:16:22-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City nonprofit says it's worried that as temperatures continue to drop, people won't be able to pay off their utility bills.

The Redemptorist Center is a nonprofit that helps low income, homeless and aging populations in Kansas City, Missouri. The organization is getting 40-45 calls a day for utility assistance, which is up 60% compared to last year.

"I've never seen it like this and I have been involved since the very beginning in 1986," said Carol Lilis, community resource specialist with the Redemptorist Center.

Lilis says some of the utility bills they're seeing are around $1,000, with charges stemming from this previous summer. Due to the amount of work involved in helping people out with utility bills, they're only able to process four to five applications a day and are limited on how much aid they can give.

"It is not adding up our paychecks, don't go that far anymore," Lilis said.

People visiting the Redemptorist Center told KSHB 41 News that inflation and utility rates increases are making it hard to budget and their paycheck isn't going as far as it once was. This year, both Spire and Evergy announced an increase in rates.

"It's taken a toll on me, it's caused me to have to come to charities, to get some help and to find out where resources are," Daran Powell said.

The Energy Information Administration says the majority of Americans heat their homes using natural gas or electricity is expected to increase by 28%, according to their latest Winter Fuels Outlook. The agency reports high demand, high prices and the war in Ukraine are contributing factors in this change.

Families in the Midwest predominately use natural gas,

"Living off a certain kind of income, that money can be used for something else, like food or medication, things like that," Powell said.

KSHB 41 News reached out to Kansas City's Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program, which averages about 75 applications a week. At this time there hasn't been an increase in requests, but a spokesperson said it's still too early in the season to tell and as the weather changes, so could those requests.