East Texans struggle to pay bills

POSTED: Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 5:27pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 10:59am

TXU says the company will cut prices by 10 percent this month

TYLER - Every single morning Mary Donley says she wakes up prepared to fight her daily financial battle.

The fight follows her to work; she says the bill collectors harass her on the job.

"Being out there working everyday and you have nothing to show for it," says Donley, "because everybody's on your back. You're avoiding phone calls, screening your calls and you're lucky your phone is even ringing."

Donley says the end of the month is the hardest. That's when she decides which bills to pay. "When I know the money is there," said Donley, "I look at it and have to pull a number out of a hat to see who gets the money."

Stories like hers are being reported all over the country. The Wall Street Journal reports that nationwide there's about a twenty percent increase in utility shut-off between last year and this one.

But here at home, help is on the way. TXU says the company will cut prices by 10 percent starting this month for more than 300,000 existing customers.

PATH agency director Christina Fulsom works with TXU to help people who cannot afford their ever-increasing utility bills. "By the time they get to us they are in really, really bad shape," said Fulsom. "So I think what is happening is people are paying bills late or being disconnected because they've never needed help before and they don't know where to turn. They don't know there's a place like PATH"

She says to get aid, you have to call PATH before your power is off. Reconnection and disconnection fees are not part of the program.

Fulsom says one must also be a TXU customer and make an appointment.

For more information, you can visit the PATH Web site or call (903) 597-4044.

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Did you know under the Fair Debt Collection Act:

- A creditor may not call you at work unless you have given them prior approval.
- A creditor may not call you early in the morning or late at night unless you have given them prior approval.
- A creditor may not call your friends, neighbors, or family members to inform them of your debt or attempt to collect.

To find out what types of debt collection practices are prohibited - visit the Federal Trade Commission Web site.

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