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News Releases : More utility customers seeking assistance to pay bills

The 15th annual Heat the Streets Run & Walk for Warmth is fast-approaching. And this year, the fundraiser for utility assistance programs is more crucial than ever.

The event takes place Saturday, March 5, beginning at 9 a.m. at Zone 6 in Aksarben Village, 1911 S. 67th St. Visit HeatTheStreetsOmaha.com to register or donate.

Omaha Public Power District and Metropolitan Utilities District host this fundraiser during the cold winter months to bring added attention to those struggling to keep their homes safe and warm. However, our customers’ need is year-round, and has been steadily rising.

Despite generous donations from the community to utility assistance programs, there has not been enough funding to keep up with requests for help from OPPD and M.U.D. customers. To help meet increasing need, OPPD and M.U.D. have increased their fundraising goal to $300,000 this year, up from $100,000 last year.

“Requests for help with utility payments represent 21% of all the calls we receive into our 211 Helpline,” said Shawna Forsberg, president and CEO, United Way of the Midlands, one of the utilities’ partner agencies.

Funds raised through Heat the Streets are administered by Dollar Energy Fund, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves low-income utility customers. Funds are equally distributed between M.U.D.’s Home Fund and OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program. Dollar Energy works with 26 local entities to provide financial assistance for utility bills to our neighbors in need. Help is available throughout 13 counties including Burt, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Johnson, Nemaha, Otoe, Pawnee, Richardson, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington.

“This unique event means a great deal to us; it’s a terrific example of both inter-agency teamwork and community generosity," said Major Greg Thompson, Western Division commander for the Salvation Army.

“It’s as timely as ever, since demand for utility assistance continues to be strong amid rising costs and the ongoing pandemic,” Thompson said.

Participants may choose between a 5K run or a one-mile walk, starting at Zone 6 in Aksarben Village. The run begins at 9 a.m., and the walk will immediately follow. Runners or walkers may participate virtually, if they choose, on paths of their own choosing.

5K, in-person or virtual cost:

  • $35 (through March 1 for in-person participants, or March 5 for virtual participants)
  • $45 in person day-of registration available

One-mile walk, in-person or virtual cost:

  • $25 (through March 1 for in-person participants, or March 5 for virtual participants)
  • $35 in person day-of registration available
  • Children 12 and under receive free registration with a paid adult

Awards will be distributed at the in-person 5K to the overall male and female, and first-, second- and third-place male and female runners in each of the following age divisions:

  • 12 and under, 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60+

This year’s co-chairs are M.U.D. Director Jim Begley, alongside his wife, Rebecca, and OPPD Director Craig Moody, alongside his wife, Emily.

Both utilities urge those who are struggling with their bills to call customer service representatives and talk through their options. For OPPD, that number is 402-536-4131 in the Omaha area. Outside of the metro, customers may call toll-free at 877-536-4131. M.U.D. customers should call 402-554-6666.