"The funds aren't there [in the winter months] to get covered," Coffman said. "We're hoping, with the reduction in the maximum amount of a grant to $300 this year, that funding lasts into January and February."
West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said the Dollar Energy Fund, combined with a 20-percent low-income discount introduced this past spring, allows the company to help more customers in need.
"We are now able to affect two classes of customers," McIntyre said. "Those that need a little bit of assistance each month with meeting their utility-bill needs and those that have a crisis point and need a helping hand in keeping their basic amenities from being shut off."
McIntyre said water bills are typically one of the lowest utility bills for a household, but service costs continue to rise, increasing the number of customers needing help.
In 2012, 409 West Virginia households received grants to keep the water flowing despite their inability to pay, McIntyre said.
"Utilities are something we all need, to get by everyday," Coffman said, "and a lot of families out there are struggling."
Since the program's inception 5,941 households in Kanawha County, 1,827 households in Cabell County and 1,134 households in Mercer County have avoided utility termination.
Coffman announced a $25,000 grant for the program from the Bernard McDonough Foundation in Parkersburg.
Customers can make contributions to the Dollar Energy Fund by calling their utility provider and making a monthly pledge, sending a check directly to Dollar Energy Fund, at P.O. Box 3979, Charleston, WV 25339, or by donating online at www.dollarenergyfund.org.
People who want to apply for the program can contact their utility provider or visit the www.dollarenergyfund.org website.
Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.