I-Team 8

Utility costs are up 26% with more Hoosiers struggling

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Utility costs have gone up as much as 26%, according to experts. And that number is expected to grow.

“It’s hard for asking for help when you’re so used to doing things on your own and being able to maintain things,” says Patricia Starks, who received energy assistance from the Salvation Army. “You have to humble yourself.”

That humility is a place thousands of first-time energy assistance seekers are now in. According to a report done by Indiana University, in 2020, 15% of Hoosiers could not afford their utility bill, with 30% having to forgo other experiences just to afford the bill.

“In some of our interviews, we found that all it took for one individual was $13 extra on their bill, and if they can’t pay it, that is enough to be completely disconnected from the grid. So we do anticipate this population to grow,” explains Sanya Carley, Professor of the IU Energy Justice Lab Co-Director and author of the Energy Insecurity report.

Carley says the increase of bills can create a sense of dangerous desperation.

“They might resort to very risky coping strategies that could compromise their health as well as their lives. For example, you know, burning trash in your home or sitting in your car and running your car to get your body warm,” Carley said.

However, the high demand is forcing organizations who give assistance are bracing themselves for a tough winter season.

“The needs of the families are out numbering what resources we have available and being able to tap into, so we’re definitely concerned about are we able to assist families come January come February,” explains Dena Simpson, the Divisional Social Services Director for The Salvation Army. “[Families have] exhausted savings accounts in the last year to two years.” 

The Salvation Army is not the organization seeing a major increase in need. The Edna Martin Christian Center tells I-Team 8 they’ve served 533 families so far in need of energy assistance. This time last year, they served 306. 

Over at the John Boner Community Center they say they’ve received 9,000 applications for energy assistance so far which is a significant increase compared to the just over 23,000 application processed all of last season. 

“Everybody is struggling, everybody,” says Starks. “So you have to put that aside and do what you have to do to keep your head above water.”

Here is a list of resources that can provide energy assistance:

  • Indy Eap Program Website: indyeap.org
  • Winter Assistance Fund If you are denied and/or ineligible for EAP, you can apply for the Winter Assistance Fund (WAF) by visiting www.uwci.org/waf
  • AES Indiana’s Power of Change www.aesindiana.com/power-change Submit application number of approval letter by emailing aesindianaeap@aes.com
  • Edna Martin Christian Center 2605 East 25th Street, Indianapolis, IN Phone: 317-637-3776 www.ednamartincc.org
  • Eastern Star Care Center 317-547-5483 Wecare@easternstarchurch.org
  • John Boner Neighborhood Center 2236 E 10th St, Indianapolis, IN 46201 Phone: 317-633-8210
  • Salvation Army Emergency Financial Assistance 1337 Shelby St. Indianapolis, IN 46203 Phone: 317-632-0156
  • Catholic Charities – The Crisis Office 317-236-1512
  • Community Action of Greater Indianapolis (CAGI) 317- 396-1800. They may also have additional assistance with rent.