DHS Budget Cuts Could Impact Service Helping Families Pay Utility Bills

Thursday, August 4th 2016, 3:05 pm

Thursday was the last day low income Oklahomans could apply for help paying their cooling bills this summer, and maybe the last time they will be able to do it without a hassle.

Carolyn Anderson is a single mother of five. The one thing she doesn’t like about summer is her $180-monthly electric bill. 

"When I open it up my face just drops so. It's hard," she said.

Anderson relies on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help her pay the bill. It’s federally funded, but state DHS workers have to process the paperwork. 

Now with the State Department of Human Services facing a $45-million cut, there may not be enough workers to process all the requests in a timely fashion.

"There is no way to sugarcoat this. Our clients that we serve are going to feel the impact," said DHS Spokesman Mark Beutler.

The governor is considering holding a special legislative session to discuss using $141-million in surplus money to fund teacher raises. A portion of that money could be returned to DHS and other agencies. 

"That would help some. It wouldn't alleviate all of the problems, but to give back some of the money, yes," Beutler said. "That would help with our budget situation. Absolutely."

Anderson says it would help her too. She says she relies on LIHEAP to get her bills paid on time.

"I mean, I don't think it's right," she said. "Because us as poor people need it."


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