A harsh winter has made it almost impossible to find jobs for construction worker Steve Potts. His income has stopped but the bills are still coming, so he's turned to Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation for help.

"Today I'm here applying for energy assistance which I've never done before.  I have a family of five at home, and it got to the point where they were threatening to shut me off. This is mighty cold weather to have two kids at home during this," said  assistance recipient Stephen Potts.

He's not alone. All three energy assistance programs OACAC offers are seeing record applicants.

"Right now we're looking at 15,000 people that we have helped since Oct. 1 with the energy assistance program, 5,000 have been helped through the crisis program and Project Share 42 households right now," said Tommie Trammell, OACAC's director of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP).

Program coordinators say the influx could be due to lost jobs and other seasonal factors.

"We are having a winter that we haven't experienced in years, so we're consuming more utilities like electric and natural gas.  Propane have always been high but right now we have the propane shortage and we aren't able to get the gallons that we want for our people," said Trammell.

At this point, the federally funded programs are able to meet this high demand for assistance.  That could change when it gets warmer and the Missouri cold weather shut-off rule is no longer in effect.

"Because our vendors don't disconnect below 23 degrees, we are going to see the bills, probably two to three months bills, coming in during February," said Trammell.

That leaves some families with few options to stay afloat.

"I don't like being here. I'm a prideful man, I have worked my butt off all of my life and I'm proud of that," said Potts.  "I don't feel proud about having to be here but, if it comes down to my children and my grandchildren, you better believe I will be here."

OCAC also relies on private donations to help certain families that are right outside of the federal criteria for receiving assistance.

If you or someone you know needs assistance contact OCAC at (417) 862 - 4314.

For more information on the energy assistance programs, visit the OCAC website.