YUKON, Okla. (KFOR) – Inside a tiny home in Yukon, Donna Yarbrough and her team at non-profit Compassionate Hands have been overwhelmed by Oklahomans asking for help to pay their utility bills.
Yarbrough, who is the non-profit’s executive director, said she budgets around $4,000 a month for utility assistance for people living in the Yukon area.
“We’ve helped 57 souls this month,” said Yarbrough.
She said during the month of December things have gotten worse and Compassionate Hands ran out of funds for this month’s budget Wednesday.
“We have to turn people away daily, unfortunately.”
KFOR reached out the two biggest utility companies, Oklahoma Natural Gas and OG&E, and asked their policy on shutting off utilities when temperatures dip drastically low. Both said they have guidelines in place to prevent disconnections for customers, who have not paid their bill, if temperatures drop below 32 degrees for 24 hours.
ONG also said “our top priority is delivering natural gas to our customers safely and reliably. We have dedicated staff who monitor our system 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Looking at the weather forecast, we will not be cutting off service in the coming days due to late payments.
As the winter weather approaches, customers can be confident that we are ready to deliver natural gas safely and reliably this holiday weekend. We encourage all customers to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the most up-to-date information.”
The natural gas company encouraged customers to contact ONG if they need financial assistance at 800-664-5463.
OG&E said in a statement “this week disconnections ceased on Monday, December 19, as the temperature dropped below 32 degrees. Given the forecasts for this weekend, we will not disconnect service for any customer at least through Monday, December 26.
Please check on elderly and homebound neighbors as you activate your safety plan. Learn more at OGE.com about how to prepare for severe weather and what to do if an outage should occur. OG&E partners with public libraries, shopping centers, houses of worship and other local community spaces to provide warming stations during severe cold weather.
AARP state president, Jim Randall, said he has gotten calls for information on utility resources every day. He also said with recent fees added to utility bills from the winter storm of 2021 people have become worried about paying bills on time or even at all.
“There will be persons who are already stressed,” said Randall. “They’re already having to stretch their dollars to cover the existing bills.” KFOR reached out to several other non-profits Thursday and some said they were dealing with the same issues. Funding was running low due to the high volume of Oklahomans behind on utility bills.