Help available for high utility bills

Published 6:45 am Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Record energy use during cold snap

By Alyssa Schnugg
Senior reporter

Many Lafayette County and Oxford residents are opening their new electric bills this week and a collective gasp can be heard across the county.

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The bill is likely higher than usual thanks to Winter Storm Heather that wreaked havoc on area roads with ice and snow and we are still feeling its effects as bills arrive in our inboxes and mailboxes.

“January bills will definitely be higher for our customers who use electricity to heat their homes,” said Oxford Utility Superintendent Rob Neely. “As opposed to Winter Storm Elliott from December 2022, the most recent storm lingered for well over a week, which caused electricity usage to spike.”

Oxford Utilities set an all-time winter peak for wholesale energy purchased in January 2024, according to Neely.

“Additionally, customers who ran their faucets for an extended period of time to avoid frozen pipes will likely see usage increase on their bill,” he said.

However, whether you are a customer of Oxford Utilities or North East Mississippi Electric Power Association, help could be available if you are truly struggling to pay your utility bills.

“For customers who need assistance with their utility bills, we suggest they contact LIFT, Interfaith Compassion Ministry and the Salvation Army,” Neely said.

Interfaith manages the Plus-1 program for Oxford Utilities. The program provides payments for customers in need and can be used once per year for two consecutive years.

“It’s my understanding that, at this time, LIFT provides support for electric bills only, not water or sewer fees. Additionally, many area churches provide assistance through their benevolence programs,” Neely said.

Oxford Utilities provides special payment arrangements for customers who need a little extra time to pay their bill. Special payment arrangements must be requested before disconnection of service. Each customer can make up to two special payment arrangements per year.

Keith Hayward, CEO/general manager of North East Mississippi Electric Power Association said that the bills this month could be higher than normal but that customers can often see a jump like this in the summer months as well, especially a summer with 100+ temperatures.

“We will always work with members who are struggling to pay their bill. They just need to communicate with us if they are having a hard time,” Haward said. “We do not have a forgiveness program, but we will work with members to get their bill paid.”

Hayward said the best thing members can do if they are struggling to pay their electric bill is to reach out to NEMEPA and let them offer some help and guidance.

“We are proud to be their trusted energy source and will help however we can,” he said.

  • LIFT, Inc: 662-238-6222
  • Interfaith Compassion Ministry: 662-236-3482
  • Interfaith Compassion Ministry: 662-236-3482