Rising utility bills have families fighting to stay warm at home during freezing temps

CLEVELAND - Dropping temperatures across Cleveland mean some tough conversations for families fighting to keep the heat on. 

A $500 utility bill landed Linda Johnson in the HEAP office this afternoon. 

“It’s a funny feeling to feel like if you have a disconnection note, your gas can get cut off,” Johnson said.

State programs like HEAP and PIPP are Johnson's best shot to keep her and her granddaughter warm during Cleveland’s coldest months. Even with help from the state, she’s never really all that far from a disaster. 

“Maybe my brakes went out on my car and I gotta pay that or whatever,” said Johnson. “I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul. So I may skip a payment here or there.”

She says she knows that means not honoring her commitment to the state to get help with her bills, but by that point, she’s low on options. The whole time, she’s remembering the line she stands in and phone calls she makes to keep the heat on are to help her family and grandchild.

“Only thing I can do is just be a grandmother and nurture her and makes sure she stays warm and that she won’t have to experience this and things will get better in the future,” said Johnson. 

Linda says the reality of her situation is she’ll be back here next year when it gets cold again. She says she’s on disability, so she has a fixed income and the bills only keep getting bigger.

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