Cheney offers utility bill help
Last updated 7/20/2020 at 11:02am
CHENEY – Residents economically impacted by COVID-19 now have somewhere to turn to for help paying their city utility bills.
At their July 14 meeting, the City Council approved creation of the CARES Utility Assistance Grant Program, dedicating at least $25,000 of the $372,300 the city is eligible to receive in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to the purpose. The program – which began July 15 – can provide up to $200 in one-time utility assistance to Cheney customers who have seen their household income negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic through reduction in hours, furloughs or layoffs and are delinquent on their bills.
According to information presented at the meeting, the accounts must be residential and in the resident’s name – which includes those living in apartments. Commercial accounts are not eligible, nor are property managers or landlords.
“We want to make sure the CARES goes to residents living in residences,” Finance Director Cindy Niemeier said. “It will last longer that way, and I think it will help more people.”
Utility accounts must be at least 30 days past due, and there is no income designation governing consideration of a grant. Niemeier said the city will work with Cheney Outreach, who will administer the program, and that grants are provided on a first-come, first-served basis.
To obtain assistance, the customer should contact the city’s Finance Department to obtain a copy of their account showing bills and payments through March 1. The customer should then contact Cheney Outreach, provide the account statement from the Finance Department and request to be qualified for assistance.
Outreach will submit a CARES voucher to the Finance Department to make the authorized utility payment. The funding is only good for delinquent bills generated after March 1, 2020 and before Oct. 31, 2020.
The grant funding can only be used to address COVID-19 programs and expenses, and involves the city spending its own money at first and then following up with reimbursement from the grant proceeds.
Councilman Paul Schmidt said the city has used Cheney Outreach before on similar programs and they have done a good job.
“I wish there was more money that we could provide for this very need,” he added.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.