Wilmington seniors losing utility discounts

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Kristy Ondo - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Senior citizens typically get discounts on groceries and movie tickets, but a credit for utility bills in Wilmington is going away.

Violet Denton, 86-year-old, received a letter from the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority saying her senior citizen credit would no longer be applied to her bill. Denton lives on a fixed income and will now have to pay $44 more every two months.

"I may have to cut out some medicine," said Denton. "I take five pills in the morning and three at night, so I've got to cut somewhere."

The City of Wilmington issued credits to seniors and the disabled, but pulled the program because they are no longer in charge of water and sewer services.

Cape Fear Public Utility took over those services last summer and say they cannot offer credits by law, they must charge all customers the same rate. The Utility Authority is now suggesting that people go to the Department of Social Services (DDS) to find help.

"We're seeing a significant increase in our requests for emergency assistance with rent, utilities, medicines and that really puts a lot of stress on our budget," said Sam Lane, Assistant Director of Economic Services for DSS.

However, DSS cannot assist seniors with their bills each month. The program they run are for one-time emergency assistance and those funds are running low, just like some seniors.

"It's not going to only affect me, it's going to affect a lot of other seniors, but seniors are struggling as it is and it's gradually getting worse," said Denton.

Denton is trying to be very careful with her water usage, but without the subsidy, water is going to put a big drain on her finances.

The Department of Social Services suggests that if his happens, try working with your landlord or utility company to make a payment and keep services running.

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