Program aids people with utility bills

David Bradley - Staff writer

LUMBERTON — The city of Lumberton is working with the Robeson Church and Community Center to raise money to help residents who struggle to keep the lights on.

“The city has noticed that people fall behind on their bills, and people are asking for help.” said Angela Parker, Public Services Department interim director.

There are often unexpected expenses such as car problems and medical bills that interfere with being able to pay the power bills, she said. Four extensions a year are available, but sometimes more are needed.

“The city can’t do anything,” Parker said. “This program, the Lend a Hand, was put in place to help.”

The program enables people to help their neighbors with either one-time or monthly donations. A one-time donation can be made at City Hall, or by check with a payment of a utility bill. A monthly charge, done with a recurring donation, can be added to a resident’s monthly bill by checking a box on the bill.

Parker said about 150 customers are now donating $10 a month, which adds up to about $18,000 a year. The most a single family can benefit in a month is $150, and the customer is responsible for any charge above the limit. The donations are tax-deductible. Tax receipts are available at the end of the year.

“There are a large number of people who approach us to help,” said Greg Maynor, assistant executive director and case manager at the Robeson County Church and Community Center.

Maynor oversees the project. Applications to receive assistance are based on income, and are similar to the Robeson Department of Social Services guidelines.

To receive help, a person must be a Lumberton resident. Photo identification and proof of income are required. Income must be at or below 150 percent of poverty level in North Carolina to qualify — $37,650 for a family of four and $18,210 for an individual. Housing expenses can be deducted from income.

The program serves 400 to 600 families a year on average, Maynor said.

“Even with the flood last year we were able to help 400 families, and we weren’t in our regular building,” he said.

There are instances when more funding is needed, and Robeson Community Church and Community Center can refer clients to other organizations.

“The availability of these funds depends on the city having the money from their clients,” Maynor said.

David Bradley

Staff writer

David Bradley can be reached at [email protected]

David Bradley can be reached at [email protected]