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Utility assistance badly needed for many in New Orleans as prices soar

As bills are getting more and more expensive, many are taking advantage of a special event that assists in paying utilities.

NEW ORLEANS — As the cost of utilities gets higher, lines for assistance paying bills are getting longer. 

That was the case Wednesday at a special event. It's for those having difficulty when it comes to basic, every day needs.

The assistance is only for payment towards utility bills. 

The crowd began lining up at 5 a.m. even though doors didn't open until 9 a.m. They stood in the August heat, and then got wet in the rain. They were armed only with I.D.s, stacks of utility bills, and hope in their hearts.

People there said it was a crisis. Families are struggling. 

"The bills don't never stop,” said one woman who went to the event. 

“We all need help. We all, we need help with this. This is really, it's really something else,” another said.

Hundreds went to the Joe Brown Park gym in New Orleans East to see if they qualified for federal monetary assistance from the city and TCA (Total Community Action). Inflation, gas, and food prices are causing many to fall behind on rent, water and light bills.

“I spoke with one lady a little while ago, and she's making a life altering decision. She can't afford to run her air conditioning, because every month her bill is going up,” Austin Badon, Clerk of First City Court said.

Badon says he's never seen the need this great.

“A lot of them are working in the hospitality industry, or local transportation industry, where those revenues have gone down and they're just not able to make ends meet,” Badon said.

Those who qualify for assistance will receive an electronic deposit into their checking account, instead of a paper check.

 “Make sure you take care of the bill. Don't spend it on something else, because once it's in the system, we know that you received it,” Badon said.

 Linda was three months behind on bills. She just qualified.

 “Very important because I really need the help, really, really, really, need it,” she said.

Antionette's  sewerage and water bill has grown to more than $7,000 in five years. She can't understand how a one bathroom, two bedroom home costs hundreds in water every month. 

“This in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, needs to stop, and Entergy too. It needs to stop,” she said.

Not everyone qualified for assistance, so some are getting by on faith. Without that, they live in fear.

“Baby, let me tell you something. If you ain't got God, yes it is (scary,)” said one woman.

The event continues Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Joe Brown Park. It is for Orleans renters, not homeowners. Those needing assistance must bring a driver's license, social security cards for everyone in the home, their lease, and all bills.

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