COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– The city of Columbus announced thousands of water and power customers could have their utilities disconnected if payment isn’t received in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, the city said that their turn-off moratorium was coming to an end.
According to data provided by the department of public utilities, 44,704 water accounts and 2,875 Division of Power electricity accounts were delinquent as of June 28th. Those numbers include both residential and commercial accounts.
Letters were sent out to those delinquent accounts holders on Wednesday, starting what could be a months-long process to get those accounts current before they could be shut off.
Impact Community Action is one of the agencies that has been working throughout the pandemic to keep people in their homes with working utilities.
“We have people coming in every day. Their lights are off. They’re living in homes with no air conditioners or fans and their homes are over 100 degrees. They have no water to bathe with or eat with and that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to help them get turned back on,” said Stanley Davis, an emergency assistance representative with IMPACT. “Through the wintertime, the pandemic was pretty hard on everybody. It was a lot of people in crisis. COVID really pushed us to our limits to get everyone processed at fast as possible.”
The City of Columbus said the shut-off process for delinquent accounts will begin on August 23rd but that’s not necessarily when shut-offs will begin. A spokesperson for the Department of Public Utilities tells NBC4 that the shut-off process includes additional notifications, establishing contact and a time frame and final notices before any utility would be shut off. Because of that, the department would likely not actually begin shutting off utilities until sometime in October.
The city said there are plenty of options for assistance still available. As of July 2, a total of $781,705.83 in CARES Act funds has been approved to help 2,155 customer accounts with more than $1.7 million in funds available.
That doesn’t include funding that agencies like IMPACT have received.
“Enrollment usually takes between 24-48 hours if we’re not backed up. But with the crisis revving and everybody in need right now, the best that we can do….is looking to be 7 to 10 business days,” Davis said.
That’s why he and the city encourages anyone who needs help to seek it sooner rather than later.
“I urge people to come to us immediately. Get help as soon as you can. Don’t wait until the last minute or until you get a notice in the mail. As soon as you know you’re going to be behind, come to us immediately and get that help,” he said.
If you need help, visit www.columbus.gov/payassist/. It includes links to all potential sources of assistance, including the CARES Act information above as well as Impact, Columbus Urban League, and others through a link labeled “Other Agencies for Financial Assistance.”