Heat wave could have added financial impact on families already struggling to pay bills

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With the temperatures soaring, it’s going to cost a lot more to keep your air conditioning running.

This could put a massive strain on families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Many families were already struggling to pay their utility bills due to Covid; now, this heat wave is only exacerbating the issue.

Some families say they simply cannot afford a higher utility bill because of how expensive everything else is.

“I’m used to my bills being a certain limit every month, and if they go up, that’s bad for me,” Brian Jones of Horn Lake, Mississippi, said.

As the price of living becomes more expensive, people like Jones are thinking much more about their budgets.

“They are already struggling. When their bills go up, they’re going to have to figure out how they’re going to pay. If they are going to choose to pay for food or medicine,” he said.

The same people who are already making tough financial decisions now have another burden: increased utility bills as their A/C units work overtime.

“We see a lot of people who are already kind of regularly struggling with daily your basic life needs, so when you have an increased utility bill, it kind of exacerbates all these other issues,” Anna Wilcox with the Neighborhood Christian Center (NCC) said.

“Studies have shown losing utilities is sometimes the first step towards homelessness,” Mary Hamlett with the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) said.

The NCC and MIFA are two non-profits in the Mid-South that work to connect families with utility assistance programs.

Hamlett said that over the past few days, MIFA has seen an increase in people applying for their emergency assistance program.

“We can assist them with a modest amount from our program if they’ve shown they had a crisis within the last 90 days,” she said. “In our opinion, given the increase of gas for cars and no increase in income and likely an increase in utility bills, that constitutes a crisis.”

Hamlett worries more people will have their utilities cut off if they’re unable to pay, which can pose a serious health risk as temperatures rise.

Jones recommends saving money where you can.

“Just kick back, buy less,” he said. “Try to find other bills you can cut out. Coupon, do anything you can to save a penny.”

If you need utility assistance, there are several programs in Shelby County that can help: