Freezing Temps Mean Tough Decisions For Residents On A Tight Budget

Lynchburg, VA - Below freezing temperatures and crippling heat bills are forcing many Lynchburg residents to make many sacrifices to make ends meet.The Blue Ridge Area food bank currently serve more than 17,000 people in the Lynchburg area and has seen more and more people coming in asking for help."I'd say for our branch in the last couple weeks people who have been coming by in need of food have increased dramatically," said Jim Scrivener, branch manager of the Food Bank. "We are able to provide a box of food depending on their family size but we also provide them with a list of our agencies."We spoke to Appalachian Power and Columbia Gas, who say customers are receiving utility bills that are higher than normal.Although there is no state law preventing these companies from cutting off power to customers who can't pay their bills, reps from both companies say they will not cut off power when temperatures reach below freezing.There are also many local assistance programs available to Lynchburg residents served with termination notices, like Interfaith Outreach.Executive director Shawne Farmer says she sees many cases where unexpected costs or high bills bring people into her office. "When people come to us with a termination notice with their electric bill and stuff we take a look at it to see how we can offer them financial assistance to prevent the termination.Farmer also stresses that in these difficult times it is important to reach out and ask for help immediately.