Entergy New Orleans will devote $500,000 to a new financial assistance program for customers with disabilities and those over the age of 60 as part of an effort to alleviate utility costs for people most vulnerable to extreme heat, officials announced Thursday (Sept. 14).

Utility officials said at a news conference that the funds will be distributed by the New Orleans Council on Aging and Catholic Charities of New Orleans. The program will not add costs to other customers’ bills, officials said.

“This is part of our ongoing commitment to the community where we live,” said Deanna Rodriguez, President and CEO of Entergy New Orleans.

The funding announcement comes amid New Orleans’ heat emergency declaration during a summer where life-threatening temperatures have prompted city officials to open cooling centers and deploy other emergency measures. 

Entergy previously announced in August that it would be suspending service shutoffs for non-payment, with shutoffs resuming after Sept. 9. Entergy customers will now have to begin paying bills that may have accumulated during the peak of the heat wave. 

Howard Rogers, executive director for New Orleans Council on Aging, said the council’s elderly clients have been asking for help with high bills throughout the summer. 

“Either I buy food, or I pay my utility bill. Do I sit in the heat, or do I eat?” Rogers said of the dilemma the council’s clients have faced this summer.

The new funding will provide up to $200 in one-time bill relief per eligible household. Customers can apply once every six months, either by calling the New Orleans Council on Aging or by filling out an online request form with Catholic Charities. A customer must meet the age requirement or provide proof of disability benefits to be eligible, and all bills must be in the customer’s name. 

Clients who contact either organization should receive a call within two or three days to complete their application for financial assistance, Rogers said. If the client is approved, the assistance would be added directly as a credit to their Entergy bill. 

Officials did not provide an estimate of how many of Entergy New Orleans’ residential customers the program would assist: “It depends on how long the funds last,” said Rogers of the Council on Aging.

The program funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, said Beau Tidwell, an Entergy New Orleans spokesperson. Tidwell said the company will consider extending the program in future years.

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Climate and multimedia journalist Lue Palmer is a native of Toronto, Canada, with roots in Jamaica. Before entering their career in journalism, Lue was a writer, documentarian and podcaster, covering race,...