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Grace periods for utility services will run out in June

Freak storm fries thousands of dollars of appliances
Posted at 6:24 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 19:40:34-04

LORETTO, Tenn. (WTVF) — After weeks of deferred payments, utility companies say they will soon return to cutting off services. Which for some people, means they could have services turned off, if they're behind on payments.

Heather Roberson of Loretto says she’s just trying to buy herself more time, having not been paid any of her unemployment money.

“Bills haven’t stopped rolling in and being laid off, that’s hard enough in itself,” said Roberson.

It was supposed to be a wait of three to four weeks at most, before Roberson returned to work. That turned into the second week of June.
By Friday morning, Roberson was told she may have to wait until at least August.

“Without receiving any unemployment at all yet, that thought really terrified me,” said Roberson.

The fear never really sank in until just days ago when her water was shut off. Roberson called Lawrenceburg Utility System for help and managed to find a post marking June 1st as the day when disconnections would resume.

“So that added a whole new layer of stress,” said Roberson.

Lawrenceburg Utility Systems gave Roberson two weeks to come up with the money, but restored her water until then. She was also given until mid-June to pay her power bill.

While Lawrenceburg Utilities didn’t comment on payment arrangements made beyond the June 1st deadline, NES had this to say:

“NES is pleased to be able to extend a grace period for nonpayment and waive late fees until June 30 in order to support customers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. However, we strongly encourage customers to take advantage of resources available to them now in anticipation of the grace period ending. Customers can contact Metro Action Commission or the Mid-Cumberland Community Action Agency outreach office in their county to apply for assistance. Other agencies that can assist customers include NeedLink Nashville and United Way 211.”

You do have to call and set up an arrangement, which again, doesn’t get to the heart of the problem for Roberson.

“Without hearing anything from unemployment and not being able to get through and then when you do get through, it’s all well wait another 7 to 10 days. Well that could put me over the cutoff date,” said Roberson.

Places like Metro Action Commission and South Central Human Services can help low income families make their payments through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or (LIHEAP).

You can find more information on LIHEP by clicking on this link. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/programs/liheap

There you can search by county to find which agency you should reach out to for help with applying.

Roberson says she’s already made the call, because at this point waiting is no longer an option.