SOWEGA Energy Assistance Program starts up

High bills can lead to your electricity being shut off, leaving you out in the cold. / From file

A program by to help people pay their power bills during the winter months got started Tuesday. Thousands of people called in to sign up.

It's a change from previous years where people had to come to their local county office to register for the program.

"We don't want anybody lining up, with the weather conditions this year we're just hoping that everyone calls in order to get this assistance," said Gwen Covin of the Lee County office.

People have to meet income requirements to qualify for the energy assistance program which offers a onetime payment up to $350.

On November 1, the Energy Assistance program was only open for homebound and elderly households (all adults age 65 or over) and households where all adults are disabled. It is opened to the general public on December 1.