Some still struggling to pay Springfield utility bills, worried about shutoff

Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 7:01 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - With lost jobs, and lost hours, many people are struggling to keep up with all their bills. That’s leading some to worry they soon could be without power and water.

A spokesperson from Springfield City Utilities said surprisingly the number of delinquent bills and people without services right now is about the same as it was in 2019. City Utilities resumed disconnecting service in July, after a few months of pushing disconnects and late fees aside.

But City Utilities said there is still one substantial difference between the late bills right now and the ones in 2019.

“What we are seeing is an increased number of customers with larger utility bills,” CU spokesperson Joel Alexander. “So that number of overdue amounts is larger.”

He said that number is about 82 percent higher, and he said thinks its largely connected to the pandemic.

“It absolutely is,” Alexander said. “People have been home more. Using more electricity, natural gas, water. So you’re seeing those larger past due balances.”

Retired military veteran James Watson says these last few months have been a struggle. He said he is now now several months behind on his utility bills.

“They’re gonna shut off the water today and then shut off the electricity on Friday,” he said. “So I guess I’m supposed to survive with no water and no electricity.”

Watson said he received a delinquency notice on Friday, even though the letter was dated July 29, likely connected to mail delays. He also said others have the same struggle he is having.

“I mean I’m not the only one. It’s all the veterans and senior citizens,” he said. “I was on the board down at the south side senior citizens. Same thing with people down there.”

Alexander said there are several customers with the same struggles as James Watson.

”You have some folks who just not paid the utility bill for a few months,” he said. “And I think that’s made it more difficult because all of a sudden you’ve got this larger bill looming over your finances and everything.”

And for folks like Watson, part of the issue has been delays in stimulus checks or social security.

”People can’t get their money. How are you supposed to be the bills? I just don’t understand.”

City Utilities said people struggling to pay their utility bills should call customer services for support and should also try reaching out to the Ozark Community Action Corporation.

Watson said he reached out to OCAC but has not heard back.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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