Help with electric bills can be tricky to get

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 9:20 PM EDT
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Many who qualify for an assistance program to help pay their electric bills don’t have computer access. A Delray Beach woman whose overdue bill was paid by a stranger is concerned about how she will pay her next one.

A generous stranger paid about $600 to settle Veronica Bowleg’s two months overdue electric bill.

She’s applying to get help from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), so she can pay the next electric bill herself.

Bowleg admits she’s not computer literate as she sat down with Contact 5 at a computer to apply for LIHEAP.

Last week, WPTV showed you her electric bill for two months that she could not pay.

“My social security is not getting any higher,” Bowleg said in a July 12 interview. “But my bills are getting higher and higher.”

When Bowleg and Contact 5 tried to log on to Palm Beach County’s system to help her apply for the program, they couldn’t.

What happened?

Last year, a friend of Bowleg’s applied to get her on another assistance program, so her account was on file. However, she couldn’t contact her friend for the password. Always remember to get a copy of your password.

After last week’s Contact 5 Investigation showed how Bowleg and others struggled with high electric bills aired on WFLX and national newscasts, more than a dozen people across the U.S. stepped up to pay her overdue bill.

At the computer in Bowleg’s home, a man from Broward County pooped up via zoom.

Contact 5 prompted the man to introduce himself.

“Veronica, this is Lucas Guartas, I spoke to you last week,” the man said.

“Oh, get out!” Bowleg responded. “Hi, Mr. Lucas.”

Guartas was the viewer who paid Bowleg’s electric bill.

“I looked at the TV, and I saw her tears on her face. And God touched my heart,” said Guartas, explaining why he and his wife and daughter made such a generous offer.

“He reached out to me,” responded Bowleg, who had only talked with Guartas by phone. “He didn’t know me, he didn’t know anything about me. To do what he did, I thank him from the bottom of my heart.”

Bowleg has struggled since April when her son Erwin passed away.

A wall in her Delray Beach home is decorated with pictures of him.

Bowleg’s favorite is one where he smiles and points both fingers at the camera.

“I thought he was going to be walking through my door,” Bowleg said, remembering when Erwin was rushed to the hospital with breathing issues. “But he walked through Heaven’s door.”

Without Erwin to help with family finances and with scorching temperatures making her air conditioner work around the clock, Bowleg doesn’t want to see her next electric bill.

As for her LIHEAP application, Chris Harvey of the Delray Senior Resource Center has expertise in that, and will be able to complete Bowleg's application.

Below are links to area energy assistance programs:

Palm Beach County: 561-335-4793

Martin County: 772-288-5456

St. Lucie County: 800-330-3491

Indian River County: 772-562-4177

Okeechobee County: 863-357-2240

Scripps Only Content 2022