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Help available for people struggling to pay electric bills

Local agencies, non-profits offer assistance
Posted at 9:10 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 16:46:44-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — If the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for you to pay your bills – you are not alone.

The President and CEO of Nashville Electric Service says right now 55,000 accounts are more than 120 days past due – that is triple the normal amount. Customers owe a total of $22 million to NES.

To help people who are struggling to make ends meet, NES is not charging late fees or disconnecting any accounts until Sept. 30. The company first stopped disconnecting services on March 3 after the tornado. The company will also offer payment plans for customers.

The Tennessee Valley Authority and NES have also teamed up to donate $350,000 to the Community Care Fund where customers can apply for assistance. NES also says Project Help also uses donations from NES customers to help others pay their bills. Normally about $175,000 is available to help customers each year.

"Once we start disconnecting, we want to work with customers and try and send them to agencies that can provide the assistance they need," said Decosta Jenkins, President and CEO of NES.

The Metropolitan Action Commission is also helping thousands of people struggling to pay bills. The Energy Assistance Program can help income-eligible Davidson County residents once a year. Residents' bills can't be in collections, and applicants must provide proof of income.

The agency has received additional money from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Now a household with three people and an annual income below $36,900 could qualify for as much as $800.

"We want to help as many families as possible," said Lisa McCrady, Director of Communications for the Metro Action Commission. "Don’t feel alone. We’re here and very eager to help as many as we can."

McCrady said between the March tornado and COVID-19 outbreak, the Metro Action Commission is seeing more people reach out for help.

"We have some residents who haven’t typically needed our help, but now they are income-eligible because of unemployment," said McCrady.

Visit the NES website or call for more information on payment options. For more information on assistance programs through Metro Action Commission visit the commission's website here.

Various other local non-profit organizations offer assistance to people struggling to pay bills including St. Luke's Community House, Catholic Charities of Tennessee and Needlink Nashville.