KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Spire Energy is expanding programs to help additional customers who are struggling to pay higher gas bills.

The Missouri Public Service Commission approved a settlement to raise Spire’s minimum revenue requirement by $78 million. It’s about half of the $143 million the natural gas company asked to receive.

According to Spire, the increase will raise the monthly bill for an average customer about $4.75 a month, starting in December.

Spire says the money will be used to pay for things like employee raises and infrastructure improvements.

The increase is in addition to a rate hike for the actual cost of natural gas that took effect Tuesday.

When customers combine the two increases, Spire says it will add a total of around $13 a month to gas bills.

DollarHelp Program

Spire announced last month it expanded the eligibility criteria for its DollarHelp program.

This program assists households with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level. In 2022, 300% of the federal poverty level is $54,930 for a two-person household.

Spire says qualified households are eligible for a total of up to $1,000 in assistance a year.

The company says Spire customers who qualify are also eligible for an 18-month payment plan.

The company is also offering expanded access to two other assistance programs.

Payment Partner Program

The Payment Partner Program provides a monthly bill credit and matches payments toward past due amounts for certain customers.

To qualify, the customer’s household income cannot exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. The income guidelines are higher depending on the additional number of people in the household.

Until now, the cutoff was 200% of the federal income level.

This program will begin at the end of the month around the time Spire’s next increase takes place.

Critical Medical Needs Program

Spire’s Critical Medical Needs Program is designed to help customers experiencing a medical emergency according to the company.

The program requires certification from a health care provider or case worker.

Spire pledges to provide financial support, along with other utilities in partnership with the United Way.

This program is expected to launch in March 2023.

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