MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County government is asking for patience as thousands of people lined up or called in Monday for a program offering help with MLGW utility bills.
The county announced last week it had received a $19 million federal grant to fund its Keep the Lights on Program, offering as much as $650 assistance for low-income customers having trouble paying utility bills.
Monday, the line to speak to someone at the county's Community Services Agency office in the Hickory Ridge Mall stretched out the door, with many saying they'd been there for hours.
Daniel Pruiett said he's a 26-year military veteran and needed help one way or another.
"Right now there's urgency because they told me they're going to send a cut-off notice on the 6th of February. So, then I still got to worry about, I got to come up with that money," Pruiett said. "I only get one check a month, disability, and I got a house note, light bill, food, clothes, medical bills. So, I had to do what I had to do."
Others complained a hotline set up by the county at 222-4299 was giving them busy signals.
"What we calling for? The line is always busy. And then you tell us call back next week," said Chandra Gamble, a grandmother who was waiting in line Monday morning.
The county responded on Twitter, saying demand was overwhelming. The county received thousands of calls Monday.
"Please be patient if you are getting a busy signal. The hot line will be open every Monday and the program runs through September," the county said.
Customers can also download the application for assistance online and mail it in.
Any Shelby County resident at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line qualifies for the program, meaning the income for a family of four needs to be about $37,000 or less. It doesn't matter if you've gotten a cut-off notice — you can apply for the program either way.
The county is considering extra staffing for the hotline, and asks that everyone be patient.