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Valley Veteran to Receive Help in Applying for Utility Assistance

2 years 3 months 3 weeks ago Thursday, March 15 2018 Mar 15, 2018 March 15, 2018 6:00 PM March 15, 2018 in News

UPDATE (3/16): Army veteran, David Johnston, will soon get the utility assistance he needs.

He's unable to wait in line to sign up at the Hidalgo Community Service Agency in Edinburg because of health issues.

After our story, an agency representative made a home visit. Johnston will now get help with his electric bill for at least four months.

If you need assistance, there is a criteria to follow. For more information, call the agency's office at 956-383-6240.

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EDINBURG – A Rio Grande Valley Army veteran needs help keeping electricity running in his home.

David Johnston says it can be difficult to pay the electric bill in addition to getting around.

"I can't stand for too long and if I have to walk any distance, I have to take my walker,” he says. "It's hard enough for me to have to ask for help. I mean, I'm kind of a proud person… I fought for this country. I hate to have to ask for help but when I do ask for help, I would like for somebody to help me.”

Johnston lives in rural Edinburg and lives solely on his Social Security check. He said the drive to make it to the Hidalgo County Community Service Agency to apply for utility assistance on time is impossible for him.

Thousands of people in the Valley are impacted by this every month. Some wait in line for hours to get the bills paid but others can't make it on time.

"I waited over an hour outside their office on the sidewalk in my walker to get in but I was too far back in line,” says Johnston.

The agency's director, Jaime Longoria, says they are only accepting the first 40 people in line.

"We can only take a certain number of folks because at the same time we're taking appointments of folks walking in,” he explains. “So, this is a direct result of the hundreds of thousands of families that we've talked about over and over again together with having to fund for only about six percent of that.”

Longoria pointed out that Johnston does have some options. He says he can have someone go in and apply on his behalf or even have someone come to him.

"They would express that to us and we will internally make a determination to have one of our workers go out and visit that particular client, that customer in their home, take their application and return back to the office,” says Longoria.

Johnston tells us he appreciates that idea.

"Yes, I will be willing to do that,” he says.

Johnston says his application is prepared. He's ready for the agency to make their move to his home.

The agency's director tells us in a situation like Johnston they are usually on a case-by-case basis.

Last year, the agency suspended project Bravo Zulu, a program focused on helping veterans with utility bills, to evaluate the need.

Longoria explains they have submitted an application to the Veterans Commission and are in the process of bringing that program back.

“We're very hopeful and we expect to hear some good news towards the end of this month,” he says. “The program wouldn't start off in earnest until July 1. When the program funding gets allocated but we're certainly hoping for the best with our application.”

Longoria says people seeking utility assistance need to bring in proof of identification, residency, income and utility bill.

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