Monday, October 20, 2008

Metro agency will hand out more aid for energy bills

One Metro Nashville agency has already seen 3,590 families this year — a major spike over last year — requesting assistance with energy bills because of the tough economy and rising costs of food, gas and electricity. "We're seeing a lot more people, and it's likely to double over last year," said Lisa Gallon, spokeswoman for the Metro Action Commission, which helps low-income families. "We are seeing a lot of first-time customers in our agency who historically were able to handle those expenses." Her agency and others will split $80 million in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funding that just came to the state to help low-income families pay for rising energy costs. That's up from a $30 million grant last year. It's unknown how much Middle Tennessee and Metro's allocations will be, but officials say it needs to be substantial. On Oct. 1, a rate hike went into effect for customers of Nashville Electric Service and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation. Nashvillians' monthly electric bills have increased 10 percent to 20 percent to cover the cost of coal and other fuels used to generate electricity, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority. It's a temporary adjustment that may go up or down in January. There were 5,993 Metro families who requested help with their energy bills last year, Gallon said. Statewide, 80,000 residents were served, according to the Department of Human Services. The state expects that figure to double, said Glenda Shearon, assistant commissioner for adult and family services in the department. "It's very good to get this news as it gets chilly," Shearon said. "And with electric bills going up, it works out that the funding was increased." Contact Chris Echegaray at 615-664-2144 or

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