People in the Tennessee Valley may start to see a spike in their utility bills because of the cold weather.

Those who turned on the heat to stay warm through last week's frigid temperatures are beginning to see the effects.

Utility bills from December are starting to hit mailboxes and inboxes. It's the price of staying warm through a frigid December and start to January. 

"Too high. Way too high," Ralph Monds from Chattanooga said.

Monds recently received his EPB bill. He said he normally pays around $200 a month and it's more than doubled.

"I'm going to pay half of it today and the other half next week," Monds said.

Most would be surprised to hear that the average residential bill is down compared to this time last year for EPB customers.

Last January, officials say bills were sitting at almost $142. This year, they're at $139. That's about $3 less on average.

"Last year reflects the TVA's fuel cost adjustment rate. It was actually higher than it was," John Pless of EPB said.

Even with a slight decrease, that may not be enough for some families. That's where organizations like the United Way help with their 211 program.

"There are hundreds of nonprofits and hundreds of churches in this area and so our specialists know exactly how to navigate that system," Jamie Bergmann of the United Way said.

One of those non-profit partner agencies is the Northside Neighborhood House. They said utility bills have been a top concern for those who need assistance.

"We've been seeing really high bills. The highest one we've gotten so far is over $460 just for one month's utility usage to heat a home," Meghan Creecy of the Northside Neighborhood House said.

They've seen a 40% increase in need since the beginning of the year. It's a large difference compared to this time last year when temperatures were mild for winter.

"It's a wonderful feeling to support our neighbors in need and also set them up to thrive with their families," Creecy said.

it's also always a good idea to call your utility company if you have any questions.

Chattanooga Gas issued a statement on Thursday:

Chattanooga Gas is committed to providing clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas for our customers. With recent colder-than-normal temperatures, which were about nine percent colder this year over last, we’ve seen about an eight percent increase in natural gas usage.  As we’ve seen across the country, due to increased natural gas usage during these frigid temperatures, Chattanooga Gas customer bills were about $8.44 more than last year. The Chattanooga Gas customer base charge has remained unchanged for nearly eight years. There has been a very slight increase in the cost of the natural gas commodity.  Natural gas is still the best value energy source to meet your heating needs. Due to its abundance, on average, bills are lower now than they were 10 years ago, because natural gas prices have been relatively low.

RESOURCES AVAILABLE 

  • United Way 
    • Simply dial 2-1-1 and stay on the line to speak with an information and referral specialist about your needs. All calls to 2-1-1 are free and confidential.
    • Call 423.265.8000. Cell phone users may need to use this number due to problems connecting some cell phone services when users only enter 2-1-1. 

    • Call toll free: 866.921.3035

    • For the hearing impaired: dial 711 (Tennessee Relay Service)

  • The Salvation Army

    • The Chattanooga Salvation Army provides emergency assistance to help families and individuals survive financial crisis situations with dignity.

    • Call 423-305-6200.

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - LIHEAP is 100 percent federally funded through a grant program from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. Money is available for applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. Income levels must not exceed 150 percent of the poverty level.  

  • Residents interested in other heating assistance programs should call Bradley-Cleveland Community Services at 423-479-4111 or Hamilton County Social Services at 423-757-5541.