MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - MLGW announced a moratorium on disconnections until Sept. 14. For people struggling to pay their bills, it buys them some more time. But will they be able to get the help they need?
MLGW says last week’s unpaid bills totaled more than $30 million. This week, it’s down to $22.5 million.
MLGW says about 15,000 customers are eligible to have their services disconnected. Last week, over 30,000 customers were eligible for disconnections.
MLGW says help is still available for those struggling.
“There is definitely money available for assistance. Not only is there money available but we at MLGW have expanded our payment plan options for customers that may be behind,” said Jim West, MLGW’s Chief Customer Officer.
West says 9,000 customers have taken advantage of the extended payment plan, which involves customers making a down payment on their bill. Customers affected by COVID-19 must pay 15 percent toward their bill. Those who are not affected by COVID-19 must pay 25 percent. They then have 12 months to pay off their bill.
Customers can also get help through the Shelby County Community Services Agency (CSA) and the MIFA Plus-1 Program.
CSA said they helped 2,000 MLGW customers last month and currently have $1.1 million on hand to help other customers.
Last week, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced the City of Memphis was sending $3.5 million in CARES Act funding to MIFA to help with utility assistance.
On Wednesday, Ellen Whitten, a continuous improvement administrator at MIFA told WMC the funding is still being worked out.
“We are still in conversation with the City of Memphis today to finalize the details of our CARES Act grant for utility, rent, and mortgage assistance, and we need to let them take the lead on communications related to that funding,” said Whitten. “I’m reluctant to put information out about existing Emergency Services program that might confuse this already complex issue.”
City officials later told WMC that $2.5 million of the grant will go to utilities and $1 million Will go to other programs.
Whitten said more information would be released in the coming days.
WMC also reached out to the City of Memphis media relations office but has not heard back.
With millions of dollars potentially available to help, Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson wonders if more should be done to make people aware of these utility assistance programs.
“Unfortunately, the cutoffs started coming or proposed cutoffs. It seems that individuals couldn’t recall the efforts that you all have put out there, so I think we’re still going to have to work on that,” said Johnson.
MLGW leaders say they’ve worked hard to get the word out and would continue that effort.
For more information on MLGW utility assistance programs, click here.
You can also call MLGW Customer Care at 901-544-6549.