Program allows for utility donations

It’s no secret people are hurting financially. The ongoing economic downturn has family budgets stretched thin when there’s food to buy, a mortgage to pay and the need to put clothes on kids’ backs.

Added to the mix are utility bills that seem to climb every year.

A program designed to help those in need has existed for years through Puget Sound Energy and, now, a similar opportunity will be coming to Enumclaw.

City Council members, at their June 8 meeting, gave their blessing to a program that will bring a new item to all bills sent to city utility customers. Beginning in July, customers with dollars to spare will be able to check a box and add money to their monthly bill, with the extra funds going to those less fortunate.

The money will be channeled to Plateau Outreach Ministries and distributed in the form of vouchers. It will only be used for those in danger of not being able to make their utility payment.

The idea for the donation program grew out of a larger initiative, according to City Administrator Mark Bauer. He said the seeds were planted through the city’s “buy local” strategy.

“We wanted to look at ways we could help those who had lost their jobs or are in desperate situations during this recessionary period,” Bauer said.

Kimberly Fish, POM’s executive director, said local residents who are served by Puget Sound Energy recently became eligible for assistance through PSE’s “Warm Home Fund,” thanks to POM’s still-new relationship with the Salvation Army.

Now, she’s thrilled that a sister program will be offered through the city’s billing system. The need certainly exists, Fish said.

“We’re seeing an increase in the number of people asking for help fir the first time,” she said, adding that utilities are one area where local residents are coming up short.

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