OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma charities have found it hard to help Oklahomans with utility bill assistance.

Catholic Charities of Oklahoma will open its phone lines every Monday morning at 8 a.m. to those who need help with utility bills. They said by 8:15 a.m., they will be fully booked.

“We have three people answering the phone,” said Kaylinn Young, director of family support services at Catholic Charities of Oklahoma. “It’s not just a greater need, but it’s those higher bills. We can’t help with as many bills as we used to.”

Young said she has seen a significant increase in the number of Oklahomans needing help to pay the bills over the past few months.

“Every day of the week we get calls, emails, requests from partner agencies for helping their clients with written utility assistance,” said Young. “It’s constant.”

According to the Oklahoma Natural Gas website, the price for natural gas went from $2.95 per unit (dth) in October 2020 to $11.26 per unite (dth) in October 2022.

Officials say inflation was to blame for the climbing cost.

Recently, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony raised questions about what he said was a combined $4.5 billion in fuel costs during 2021 (which included the storm fees) from three companies: OG&E, ONG, and PSO.

He said those have been the highest in the nation.

At a hearing Thursday, lawyers from ONG, the Public Utilities Division, and the state Attorney General’s office asked a judge to ok the company’s plan to recoup millions in under recovered fuel costs for the year of 2021. (These are fees you already see on your bill, which happen every year as fuel prices change.)

According to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the Public Utilities Division found that ONG under collected around $18 million for 2021.

The AG’s office filed in support of the hearing, saying it “has not identified a reason to object to the current relief request” by ONG.

“Today’s hearing was a part of our standard, regulatory process, where the PUD reviews and recommends approval by the Commission of our costs and processes in securing the cost of reliable gas at the lowest price possible for our customers,” said ONG officials.

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However, when you add in fuel fees from the 2021 winter storm, more and more Oklahomans have fallen short of footing their utility bill.

“Even if they can pay a portion, there’s still a dollar amount they can’t cover because there’s an increased price,” said Young.

The judge has about a week to make her ruling.