Energy grants a godsend for residents on tight budgets


Herald Writer

As a former World War II Red Cross nurse based in Russia during the frigid winter of 1943, Ruth Rea says she knows how to cope with cold weather.

"I have on long pants, winter socks, a long-sleeve shirt and a sweater," she said of how she was dressed in her Silver Lake home to cope with the recent cold snap.

"I’ll make it through anything. I’m not complaining," said Rea, who will celebrate her 78th birthday Christmas Day.

But living on a budget of $750 a month, "every penny counts," she said.

So she’s especially grateful for the $220 she received to help pay for electricity and heating costs this winter, a grant from the Snohomish County Energy Assistance Program.

Her worry: Either pride or not knowing about the program will prevent other seniors and low-income individuals from seeking the help they need.

"There’s help out there," she said. "I’ve had to take a couple of people by the hand … and say … this is the only way we can do it this winter."

The county program has a little more than $1 million in grants to help qualifying low-income individuals and families pay their heating and electricity bills this winter. Other money is available elsewhere.

Recent price increases in electricity and natural gas rates are expected to stress the budgets of many area families, but hit especially hard are those on fixed or low incomes.

Dan Anderson of Arlington is another area resident who has benefited from the program, receiving a $332 grant.

"They were very, very helpful to me," he said of program employees, adding, "I was in and out in 15 minutes.

"I’ve been working close to 30 years; I never knew this type of stuff would come in handy," he said of the energy grant he received.

Anderson, 51, said he was disabled by a head injury he received in 1967. After recently losing a job, he is applying for Social Security disability payments. Until then, he’s living on $329 a month he said he receives from the state, food stamps and help he gets from family members who pay his $465 monthly rent on a 55-by-15-foot trailer.

"I was worried about this cold spell, I was really shook up," Anderson said of how the increase in power rates will affect him.

With the PUD announcing a power rate increase of 33 percent on Wednesday, "There’s a whole lot of people in the state of Washington that will be hurting," he said.

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