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City of Tallahassee utility disconnections to resume after more than a year

Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Tallahassee City Commission voted to resume utility disconnections in February; the local government included a 60 day grace period, ending in late April. Local nonprofits and community groups are partnering with the City to help those in need.

The City of Tallahassee emphasizing to customers: if you have reached out for help from the local government or a non-profit and are waiting for a response, you will not be disconnected.

One community group that’s helping where they can: the Tallahassee Urban League.

President and CEO Curtis Taylor commends the City for its flexibility.

“They have worked with us over and over in trying to make sure that we can keep those family lights on,” said Taylor.

The Urban League has run a housing counseling program since 1979, with assistance for evictions, foreclosures, utilities, and landlord issues. Taylor says they’ve helped many people get better credit to purchase homes.

Taylor says in the last two months, the group has been working with the City.

“This past Friday, we had a senior citizen came in, her utility was about $1400. Her family said that they could give her $350, so the Urban League added another $200,” explained Taylor.

He says the City then worked out a payment plan extension for the rest of the money owed.

Taylor added, “And so while this client came in with dark clouds and teary eyes, she left here praising the Lord, thanking the Urban League and the City of Tallahassee.”

At last Wednesday’s Commission meeting, the City’s Chief Information Officer James Barnes told Commissioners, of the about 9,000 delinquent accounts, the City had received some or all of the payments from more than 5,000.

Barnes said there were at least 3,000 accounts waiting for assistance from the County’s latest federal funding; applications for that round of assistance closed last Monday, April 19th.

He asks anyone needing assistance to reach out to the City; the phones have been ringing from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

“All of our employees are working extra overtime to ensure that we are answering everyone’s calls and providing support,” said Barnes.

Capital Area Community Action Agency, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida, Elder Care Services, and other groups are also offering support.

“If you have been one that’s been to the county, or another agency, and you’re pending hearing the approval for them to help you, please know that we will not be suspending anyone that has actually gone to seek assistance,” said Barnes.

The City also has a program called Project Share where you can donate to help cover part of another person’s utility bill. Contributions have gone up 50 percent in the last couple of months.

Leon County’s Emergency Rental Assistance had received nearly 6,000 applications requesting more than $17 million total for rent and utility assistance.

As of Friday, April 23rd, the County had approved more than 110 households for more than $500,000 of funding. There will be more households approved as the County moves through processing the applications.

In an e-mail to the County Commission, the County Administrator wrote that the “City of Tallahassee has extended the due date of utility payments for all eligible ERA applicants until June 1.”

He also said if the Board votes in favor, there is a possibility of a second “Round 2″ program with the additional federal funding coming from the American Rescue Plan Act, set to be received no later than mid-May.

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