RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Thousands of unemployed Virginians are down on their luck and behind on their bills. Dominion Virginia Power has launched an effort to help them keep up. They've partnered with the Virginia Employment Commission to bring information directly to folks in the unemployment line.
Latoya White was laid off from her office job in April. With a four year-old daughter to take care of, she knows what it's like to worry about bills.
"It's hard because some places don't want to work with you as far as getting your bills paid, and when you're late they want to reprimand you," said White.
David Botkins with Dominion Virginia Power says his company realizes people are struggling, and wants to help.
"Many of our customers are getting hit from all sides. They may have lost their job, their spouse may have lost their job," said David Botkins, Dominion Spokesperson.
So, Dominion representatives will be visiting employment centers armed with information on how to get help. For those in the most need the Energy Share program provides direct help in the form of cash to pay your bill. It's funded in part by customer contributions.
"We do see a slight peak in contributions, however, the demands on the funds by those that need it is exceeding that," Botkins said.
From November 2007 to October 2008, Energy Share Assistance went to just under 12,000 homes. In the year since, almost 19,000 households have gotten the funds. That's a 59% increase. In addition to monetary help, Dominion will be stressing the importance of energy conservation as a means of controlling costs.
"Use a CFL light bulb instead of incandescent, weather stripping, energy efficient windows," he said.
Latoya thinks it's a good idea to reach out directly to people as they stand in the unemployment lines.
"I think this would be a good place to start, because lots of people don't have the resources to get in touch with the people they pay bills to. You can't ask for help you don't know about."
The next information session in our area is set for September 28. It's at the VEC's Mechanicsville office on Elm Drive. Dominion representatives will be there from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.