EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The winter of 2017 in Baton Rouge gave many residents the opportunity to see snow. It also gave them high utility bills.
According to the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging (EBRCOA), seniors were hit particularly hard since most are on fixed incomes. Frances Johnson is one of those seniors. She says she owed $300 for the month of January.
"Your back's against the wall and you just don't know what to do," Johnson said. "I'm retired, and you know, when you're getting only so much income, that's not very easy to deal with."
Fortunately, Johnson got some much needed help from EBRCOA. Anyone over the age of 60 can show their utility bill and the council will help them with the payments. The EBRCOA will pay up to $600 annually. The program has been around for some time, but the demand has never been greater.
"Our seniors are on fixed incomes," said Trudy Bihm, special CEO assistant with EBRCOA. "We want to make sure that we take care of those who took care of us, the ones who paved the way."
The council also added a new program this year, called COA Helps, which specifically targets homeowners who need to recover from unforeseen emergencies, such as burst pipes.
"The COA is here to help them along that way so that they can make sure they can provide for themselves, provide food and water, and not have to deal with the struggles of paying their bills," said Bihm.
The EBRCOA wants to get the word out so no seniors suffer through these payments. Anyone that needs help can visit the office at 5790 Florida Blvd. or call 225-923-8000.
Also, some utility providers will work with customers other than seniors who are hit with a high bill. Entergy says it's helping customers who need more time to pay or need their payments split over several months. Call 1-800-ENTERGY to set that up.
There are also other COA offices throughout the state, including in Livingston, Ascension, and Assumption parishes.