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Tallahassee Launches Utility Relief Program For People Impacted By Covid-19

utility lines against a blue sky
Marta Weronika

Tallahassee's utility relief program is now live. It allows those who have lost jobs or revenue due to COVID-19 to defer utility bills sent between March 12 and May 12.

Applicants will need to provide documentation showing COVID-19 has financially impacted them. That could include paperwork showing a person has applied for unemployment benefits, or a letter from a boss showing a worker's hours have been significantly reduced. Residents, businesses, and non-profits can apply. Participants would have six months starting September 2020 to pay back their bills. Tallahassee's Chief Customer Officer, James Barnes says it's like a six-month interest-free loan.

"We're hopeful that a lot of folks who may be struggling with some additional burdens of not working or working from home and using more utilities can leverage this as they get a bridge until some of the other stimulus programs are able to reach them," Barnes says.

He says the program is a continuation of a plan to help residents cope with COVID-19. Barnes says "phase one" was keeping utilities on for 60 days regardless of whether customers had paid their bills. Now, the utility relief program is phase two. When asked if there would be a phase three Barnes replied, "there are some discussions that are going on now with the city and the county on additional local stimulus that they may be providing."

For customers who can't recoup their finances in time to begin paying back their deferred bills, Barnes says the city will work with them to develop a plan to meet their needs. 

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.