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State approves Spire rate increase, company expands relief programs

You could see an increase in your gas bill as early as the end of this month.

ST. LOUIS — Spire Missouri said a 3% rate increase was approved just one year after the last increase and will take effect between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.

Spire said this rate increase on average in the St. Louis region will be about $3 per bill, which may not seem like a lot but over time can make a big difference for some already struggling.

Spire Missouri Vice President of Regulatory and Governmental Affairs Scott Weitzel said this rate increase and the last one combined means St. Louis area resident's gas bills have gone up about $5 in the last two years which is shown in the distribution or delivery fee on a monthly bill.

“Your bill is about half of it is natural gas cost and then half of it is distribution costs and when I say distribution cost...it's your meter...it's the pipe in the ground...it's the people that are there out in the field providing you safe and adequate natural gas,” Wietzel said.

Weitzel said this increase will help them cover investments and repairs they have already made, an accounting reset and financing company operations.

“The company and our investors put that money upfront. Once those pipes mains, services, and meters are in service at your home flowing gas. That is part of our regulatory construct, we come in and ask for recovery of those dollars,” Weitzel said.

During a public comment meeting customers spoke out about the increase and issues they had qualifying for relief programs which Spire has now made some changes to help more people.

“Previously you had to be at 200% of the federal poverty level or less and we've expanded that to families with incomes of 300% of the federal poverty level or less,” Spire Missouri Vice President of Experience Christopher Gagliano said.

For a family of four, that means the total household income would be $83,000 or less to qualify for two of Spire’s assistance programs, Dollar Help and Payment Partner program.

“The Payment Partner program is a way to help people who may have a high past due balance. So, what we do on that program is we actually put them on budget billing and then we look at that past due balance and we divide that past due balance by 12,” Gagliano said.

Gagliano said Dollar Help is something all customers can contribute to help those in need. To donate to Dollar Help, click here

“You can check a box on your bill. If you aren't giving today and you want to give or you can go online and give at spire energy dot com slash dollar help," Gagliano said. "But those contributions go toward helping people who are struggling to pay their bills." 

"The maximum amount that someone who qualifies for help, the maximum amount that they can get is up to $1,000 in a year,” Gagliano said.

They also made some changes to the Critical Medical Needs program which will allow customers with medical problems to hold off on paying their bill for a month.

For more information on assistance programs click here.

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