Councilwoman proposing MLGW customers share their pennies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis city councilwoman is proposing all MLGW customers share their pennies.

It’s known Memphis Light Gas and Water has some of the lowest rates in the country, but studies show people here in the Mid-South are also bearing one of the highest energy burdens.

A large chunk of their income is going toward their utility bill. Part of that is because homes are old and aren’t energy efficient.

A new proposal has the MLGW Share the Pennies program expanding. Share the Pennies is when the extra few cents from the dollar are rounded up to the nearest dollar. Those extra cents go toward helping the elderly and disabled make their homes more energy-efficient.

According to Robinson, the idea is modeled after a program in Knoxville.

“We should do this as a community and not point fingers and do this. We need to make sure everybody is contributing in some way,” explained Memphis city councilwoman Patrice Robinson.

Robinson believes more can be done to battle the heavy energy burdens many Memphians carry.

“I know quite a few elderly people that need help,” explained Barbara Avant on Thursday.

Avant used to be one of those people. The 66-year-old elementary school crossing guard has lived in her Frayser home for more than 15 years. Her monthly bill used to be more than $300, however, money from the Share the Pennies program changed that.

“This is my furnace they put in. I love it! Haha. I love it,” she said.

Avant said after Project Care, an energy-efficient grant program from MLGW, installed a new furnace in her home her bill has been cut in half.

Robinson believes by expanding the Share the Pennies Program, millions could be generated, giving more families the help they desperately need.

“Those few pennies that you throw in a jar, in your car, up under your seat. In the bottom of your purse, that’s all it amounts to,” she said.

The help someone gets from the grant, varies depending on what they need, but includes weatherizing the home in some way. The new resolution would mean MLGW ratepayers would automatically share their extra pennies and would have to choose to opt out. Robinson said she understands some people might not want to share a few extra cents but said in the grand scheme of things it’s a small amount that can make a big change.

“$11.88 is the max that anyone can pay and not a month, but a whole year,” explained Robinson.

According to the resolution, the average ratepayer would contribute $6 per year.

The resolution also says the change would be extensively and effectively marketed for at least six months prior to the transition.

The proposal is expected to be voted on by the Memphis City Council in January it will then go before the MLGW board for consideration.