ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - When the coronavirus first hit Albany, the city’s utilities department suspended payment for those impacted.
Now that payments have been reinstated, several people in the Good Life City say they’re struggling to pay their bills.
“They cant afford to buy groceries, pay their rent and pay their light bills. You have families that have lost jobs and have their kids 24/7. These are just some of the stories that we have come across,” Nikki Owens, who is part of the “9 to 5″ organization, said.
Now, the “9 to 5 Organization” is taking matters into their own hands.
On Wednesday, the group delivered a signed petition to the city's utility department.
“We have 167 signatures. We also got feedback. Some people shared their concerns as well, and so we allowed them to do that on the petition,” said Owens.
The petition, which is 17 pages long, has a list of demands the organization wants to be met.
Things like suspending payments until October, increasing their rollover policy and changing their board meeting times from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Until their demands are met, the organization said there are still ways to keep your lights on.
“Right now, we have a resource list with 9 to 5 that we updated. United Way is a big help right now going on concerning utilities and some other needs that’s going on with families. So right now, the 211 helpline through United Way is one of the organizations that are helping members in the community concerning utilities,” Joanna Jackson, also with the organization, said.
A spokesperson for Albany Utilities released the following statement in response to the petition:
“Albany Utilities is aware that some customers are having a difficult time paying their utility bill and may be in need of assistance due to hardships as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Over the last six months, Albany Utilities has implemented measures to assist customers while sustaining business.
In March, Albany Utilities suspended disconnections of services and late fees until June 1, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A COVID-19 HOPE Emergency Fund, created by the City, in the amount of $200,000, was administered to 1,000 customers. We have received, from local agencies, more than $500,000 in utility assistance vouchers to help pay bills. Extensions are still being offered to those who qualify.
Update: On Friday, the Southwest Georgia Unity Action Council reached out to WALB regarding the city’s statement that listed its phone number for funding assistance. A spokesperson said the funding, which started in April, is no longer available. The spokesperson said the council was getting inundated with calls.