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Published: Thursday, 12/4/2008

United Way hosts forum about utility assistance

With a struggling economy and thousands in Lucas County seeking help paying utility bills, the United Way of Greater Toledo hosted a utility assistance forum yesterday for various social service agencies, as well as Columbia Gas of Ohio and Toledo Edison, to share information.

United Way s 211 help line has received about 14,000 calls for utility assistance in five months, said Bill Kitson, the agency s president and chief executive officer. During the same five-month period last year, it received less than half that number.

Utility assistance has surpassed food as the top need, Mr. Kitson said.

Chris Kozak, a Columbia Gas spokesman, said the average consumer bill is about the same amount as last year, about $103 a month on the budget plan.

Mr. Kozak and Richard Wilkins, an Edison spokesman, urged customers having problems paying their bills to contact the utilities before being threatened with a shut-off notice.

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