For immediate release: 11/17/05
Heat-Up St. Louis Works With MO Attorney General’s Office
To Help Protect Consumers During Heating Season and City of St. Louis
Provides $100,000 Commitment to Help Its Needy Residents Stay Warm
Announcing Two New Additional Methods of Making Donations to Heat-Up St. Louis
St. Louis, MO: Heat-Up St. Louis, a regional, independent, all-volunteer energy assistance and education charity rolled out its 2005/06 winter campaign theme, “It Shouldn’t Take A Bank to Heat A Home.” The all-volunteer charity announced at its press conference on Thursday at the St. Louis City Hall several aggressive initiatives to provide various relief and consumer protection to area citizens in association with the City of St. Louis and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
Heat-Up St. Louis officials also announced that in addition to supporting special fundraisers throughout the winter, and website credit card donations through www.heatupstlouis.org more than 30 UMB Bank Centers in Missouri and Illinois have agreed to accept drop-off donations to any bank teller, including the drive-thru. Another positive development announced was that the charity is now accepting marketable securities as donations. Donations of marketable securities are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to Heat-Up St. Louis, c/o UMB Bank, P.O. Box 868, St. Louis, MO 63188.
“The contribution budgets for potential donors appear to be stretched or tapped out, as many are experiencing the same increases in heating,” said Gentry W. Trotter, president of the board of directors for Heat-Up St. Louis. “For the selected few dollars left, we want to be the gift vehicle during these trying and demanding times. The St. Louis region has always shown great humanitarian passion for giving to those truly in need.”
St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay announced that the City of St. Louis, through its Utility Tax Fund, is providing a grant of $100,000 to Heat-Up St. Louis this winter. Slay made a $75,000 down payment on the commitment. Heat-Up St. Louis officials are in further discussions with the City to seek additional energy assistance dollars due to the anticipated volume of needy residents qualifying for help this winter based on escalating heating bills.
"Due to the terrible aftermath of two severe gulf coast hurricanes and several other reasons, heating bills will be extremely high and unmanageable," observed Slay. "Many of the most fragile families of our community may experience a devastating impact without energy assistance."
Slay observed that Heat-Up St. Louis has become a critical safety net for many throughout the region, particularly in St. Louis City.
The qualifications are based on income eligibility and medical conditions. Unlike other supplementary dollars distributed by Heat-Up St. Louis in partnership with about 13 social service and community action agencies, the City money often serves as the primary safety net in paying upwards to $650 of a delinquent heating bill.
For several months, Heat-Up St. Louis has been in discussion with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office to identify ways to strengthen and protect area consumers against utility irregularities. In addition, many Missouri seniors and disabled people are subject each winter to rip-offs related to furnace repairs, etc. The charity through its hotline will refer certain cases to the Attorney General’s Hotline for review.
“I pledge to work with Heat Up by linking our website to represent Missouri consumers to the extent allowed by law,” said Jay Nixon, Missouri Attorney General. “Today, our office is offering new information on our website and linking our site to Heat Up in an effort to provide information on the Missouri Cold Weather Rule and to give consumers a better opportunity to alert our office if they have information that rule has been violated.”
“I don’t feel comfortable with the gross insensitivity coming from the current leadership at the Missouri Public Service Commission, said Gentry W. Trotter, president of the Board of Directors of the not-profit-charity.” “They had an opportunity to lift an extra burden on its area utility consumers. Instead they slammed the door on many of the working sniffs, and potentially helped add nails in the coffins of many seniors who have serious medical issues while making choices between heating and eating. “
“We must all work together to increase our advocacy for those struggling with the escalating costs of fuel, said Nixon. “The most vulnerable in our society- the poor, the elderly and the disabled -should not have to choose between eating and heating.”
Those who feel they have been illegally disconnected from natural gas or electrical services, in violation of the Missouri Cold Weather Rule, are encourage by the Nixon to contact the Office of the Attorney General at 1-800-392-8222. The office will work to determine if you are being treated fairly under the Missouri Cold Weather Rule.
“Heat up St. Louis performs an outstanding service not only for St. Louis but for the entire metro area,” concluded Nixon.
Trotter further called on the MO PSC to reconsider an Emergency Cold Weather Rule to help middle income and the needy pay down their high winter heating bills. The Missouri Public Service Commission's Emergency Amendment to the Cold Weather Rule in 2001 proved to be effective. Under that Emergency Rule the residential customer could pay $250.00, or 25% of their past due gas bills, or whichever was less.
The PSC emergency rule provided a more lenient payment term for reconnection for residential customers, and prohibits assessment of late payment charges on deferred amounts, and prohibits interested charges as well.
The lack of affordable natural gas has worsened due in part by the back-to-back destructive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. A shortage of natural gas is forcing prices up, according to Dr. James Knight vice chairman of the board of directors
“Despite this we are facing a lot of medical and emotional issues, relating to the most venerable, our elderly and the disabled,” said Dr. Knight. “We're in for a desperately chilly experience this winter, no matter who is to blame. “
There are secondary health effects. When people with diabetic or asthmatic conditions turn down thermostats too low in an effort to make ends meet, they become more susceptible to respiratory infections, pneumonia and frostbite because they sometimes can't feel cold temperatures.
Joining Heat-Up officials was Fire Chief Larry Zeitzmann, president of the Metropolitan St. Louis Fire Chiefs Association, who talked about the significant of avoiding unsafe methods of heating homes. The organization also endorsed Heat-Up St. Louis for educating the public on health and safety issues in an effort to reduce home fires during the winter months. Winter is the highest incidents of deadly house fires. The St. Louis area recently experienced numerous fires reportedly related to space heaters. Space heaters should not be used for primary heating during winter months.
In addition to helping area elderly, the disabled, and low-income families with small children with their winter delinquent heating bills for the past four winters, Heat-Up St. Louis offers health and safety public education, utility counseling, and advocacy. It’s the only area energy assistance charity with a resource hotline (314-241-7668) and a “Be A Good Neighbor, Check On Your Neighbor,” safety outreach for seniors and the disabled. These programs are executed solely on a volunteer bases.
Since is inception, Heat-Up St. Louis has impacted the lives of more than 65,000 people in an effort to keep them safe and healthy during the winter months.
(Heat-Up St. Louis is also non-partisan. Lt. Governor Peter Kinder of Missouri, and Senate Maida Coleman, minority floor leader are ex-officio members of the board)