High Cost of Gas

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This past winter was rough on a lot of us – and not just because of winter and the frigid cold that came with it. But this winter, for a lot of people, came a big problem and that was due to the high increase in gas bills.

The high gas bills really presented a big problem for some residents who pay their own heating bill. There are some programs that offer help but what residents fear most is becoming lease non-complaint: All Chicago Housing Authority residents who pay gas and electric bills know that they can’t be behind in these utilities or have the bill in someone’s name other than the lease holder. If they are behind, they must be in some type of payment plan, the problems of which I will write about a little later in this article.

Some people cannot even afford to pay other bills because of the high price of gas. Some are worried about losing their CHA unit or Section 8 apartment. Many residents feel they are facing problem after problem: The relocation plan is hitting most of us. Combine that with the 5-year welfare reform plan and many residents are wondering if this is all one plan to hit the poor all at once. Here is how some of the residents I spoke with feel:

Angie, a Resident of the North Side
“With two small children and two in high school and a job that pays just s little over minimum wage, it is hard to try and be on a payment plan.
“You have to pay the same amount for one year and you must not get behind in this plan or you default the plan. And then here comes the worry about losing your unit because you can’t pay your bill. And you can’t pay your bill because you have a child graduating from high school. There are fees that must be paid and you have the only income. Plus you still have your other bills.
“What is one to do because the help you do receive from CETA is a one-time payment for the year? I just hope that housing will understand.”

G.S., a Hyde Park Resident who has a Section 8
“I was living in one of the high rises before moving to my current residence.
“I am a working single parent and what has me really worried is I have applied to the CETA energy assistance program twice and have been denied twice.
“So how am I supposed to remain lease compliant if I can’t afford to pay my utilities? And it is not like when I lived in the development.
“Some of my neighbors who moved in this area, along with myself, will not attend a community meeting. They don’t want friends who they have met moving here to know that they are Section 8 residents and not homeowners.
“So it seems like I am fighting alone and I know I can’t pay market rent. What am I and others like myself to do when it seems our government can help everyone but its own.”

E.J., a Resident of Scattered Site
“How much more can we as residents of public housing take? I know this problem with the high gas bills is not just with residents of Scattered Sites and Section 8 but it seems like all of these cuts and increases are hitting us at the same time. First the 5-year plan with welfare and the new TANF (Transitional Assistance to Needy Families) program.
“So I go back to school and get my GED, then find a job paying a little bit more than minimum wage, think I am about to get ahead and now here comes this increase in the utilities. I go to one of the energy assistance offices to apply for help and I am denied.
“They say my income is too much. Then the gas company wants to put me on a payment plan, which will put me in more debt than I am in already. With my bill going from $543.68 to $1,1476 (for one month), it is too much to deal with.
“When will we see a brighter day?” So now you read how some of our residents feel. There are reports about help being sent to the communities but many residents feel this help was sent to areas outside of public housing.

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