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With prices going up across the board, requests for utility bill assistance have increased, according to officials who help pay energy bills.

“Five thousand or more people must have applied in the five counties served,” said Betty Smith, executive director of the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Economic Opportunities Commission.

Though the EOC offers assistance, the agency has already run out of funds for its low income home energy assistance program and is referring people to other organizations including Neighbor to Neighbor, Smith said.

EOC hopes that when the new fiscal year starts in October more funding will be available. It was not uncommon to see as many as 100 or more applications a day pour into the agency when the program began in January.

The Southern Good Faith Fund will offer assistance with utilities until the funding is depleted, said Angela Duran, the agency’s president.

Rosalie Tripp, program director for the Power to Care program at Southern Good Faith Fund, said the agency has received 100 more requests in July than the same time a year ago.

The program, which partners with Entergy, offers one time assistance to the disabled or those 60 years old and older who meet income eligibility requirements. Entergy matches donations up to $500,000 overall, Duran said.

“You can also donate to the program by checking the box on your Entergy bill or online and writing a check to Southern,” Duran said. “For those that don’t qualify we recommend calling Arkansas 211 (which refers people to other resources.)”

The number of people requesting assistance is expected to spike in the next few weeks as individuals receive their summer cooling bills, officials said.

Other agencies that offer assistance include Area Agency on Aging of Southeast Arkansas and Full Counsel Christian Fellowship.