Shelly Ledford said it all started with an electric bill that nearly made her heart stop.
"Three days to come up with $717, it was impossible," Ledford said.
Her Indianapolis Power and Light disconnect notice was more than she could afford and the company's automated phone line for customers only granted her a three day extension. So, Shelly and her husband set out to find a program that could help them get through the tough time.
"There are just no funds, no one could help us," Ledford said.
They tried the Community Action Center but couldn't get an appointment in time. The program is overwhelmed with Indianapolis residents needing utility bill assistance and is receiving less funding this year than in years past.
The John H. Boner Community Center is also getting less money to give out to local families. Financial Foundations Director Dean Johns said a grant just came through for $40,000 but the center is still working with about $60,000 less than last year.
The Boner Center is offering financial coaching when there's no cash available.
"We like to sit down and really talk about what's going on. Can we make some financial yields by applying for other things, like food stamps or other resources that would then free up some money for rent or utilities," explained Johns.
The Ledfords said they are still seeking help to pay next month's bill. The Salvation Army in Fountain Square will offer short-term emergency utility assistance when people have exhausted all other options.
"We can't, unfortunately, pay all of it, because of funding, but we will help pay what we can or meet them half way," said Captain Justin Windell.
He said donations are down and he's seen the need increase by almost 50 percent.
Indianapolis Power and Light tells customers to dial 211 for more information on local organizations providing heating assistance.
Spokesperson Zach Dunkin explained the automated customer service system was put in place to keep energy costs low. The company doesn't have to pay staff to take questions about deferrals and bill-pay problems. IPL's rates were recently named among the lowest in the country's 20 largest cities.