Mecklenburg County officials expect a rough economy will mean more people asking for assistance to pay their energy bills this winter. Last year about 1,400 Mecklenburg County residents received money from the federal government to help pay off energy bills. This year the department expects that number to jump to 1,600 partly due to a declining economy. To qualify a four person household must earn less than $2,000 a month and have savings under $2,200. Cynthia Sampson is the coordinator for the program in Mecklenburg County. She says families receive one check in February to help pay the bills. "It's important for so many because it can make a difference in meeting their heating expenses for their family and not being able to meet those expenses to possibly face a disconnection in their electric bill or their power bill," says Sampson. Mecklenburg County residents have until this Saturday to apply for assistance. The checks average $65 per household.