No job, no money from KDOL, a lot of Kansans struggle to pay bills

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WICHITA, Kan (KSNW) – One Wichita man says if he doesn’t get his unemployment money soon he may be forced to choose between eating and keeping the lights on.

Cory Vandegrift was laid off from this job in the aviation industry almost a year ago. He says he has not received a single payment from the Kansas Department of Labor this year.

Some of his bills are going unpaid. Vandegrift says he doesn’t know what else to do.

“We’re talking thousands, I can’t give you an exact number, it’s substantial,” Vandegrift said. “It would be enough to completely pay up my back rent and pay utilities.”

He says he has at least $6,000 in bills he has not been able to pay since being laid off last April and he is losing hope that the Kansas Department of Labor will pay him.

“Without my family members, you would be talking to me in my vehicle with my child sitting next to me,” Vandegrift said.

Heather Pierce is the 211 call center coordinator at the United Way of the Plains. She says Vandegrift is not alone. The call center has seen a large increase of people asking for help this year.

“One of the biggest concerns is just how large the bills are because we have been lucky that those disconnects have not been happening, which is a good thing until it comes time that now, the bill is due, and so they’re astronomically large bills,” she said.

Pierce said the time to seek help for large bills is now. The Kansas Low Income Energy Assistance Program has been extended until the end of May. Evergy said they will not turn off the power for customers behind on bills until May 2, hoping the delay will help customers like Vandergrift.

“If they’re having trouble paying their bills, maybe someone’s lost a job and they’re not knowing if they’re going to be able to pay their next bill,” said Alison Lee, an Evergy senior consumer affairs advisor.

“A little bit of a weight off my shoulders to know that utilities will be on at least for a little longer, but then that just switches to, okay, so I have this much time to gain some money,” Vandergrift said.

A spokesperson for Kansas Gas said if you are having problems paying your bill. Reach out to the company, they do have payment plans available to help.

Contact the United Way of the Plains through its website or by calling 211.

Assistance programs for utility companies across Kansas

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