MEMPHIS, Tenn. — About 18,000 Memphis Light, Gas and Water customers once again face disconnection by the utility for unpaid bills.
On Monday, the utility company ended its temporary suspension of disconnections and late fees after a previous moratorium was extended.
An MLGW spokesperson said the city-owned utility plans to disconnect no more than 3,500 customers per day for nonpayment. Approximately 10,620 customers are currently on a extended pay plan.
Disconnections are occurring based on MLGW billing cycles. A map showed where those disconnections are occurring by ZIP code as of August. The largest numbers of disconnections were in the Frayser, Raleigh and Cordova areas.
“It’s dire,” said Damon Williams, executive director of the Frayser Community Development Corporation. “And so in a global pandemic it is catastrophic”
Williams, in just his second month at the CDC, said his nonprofit is getting more calls from people worried their utilities will be disconnected.
“People want to know where they can get assistance from. They want to know what’s required for the assistance and, yeah, they just want help,” he said.
Williams said the Frayser CDC has just been awarded funding from the Tennessee Cares program. The money will go directly to MLGW if someone has a disconnect notice or needs assistance paying a utility bill.
He said the organization is still developing the application and program rules, which will be online in about a week.
Earlier this month, the president and CEO of MLGW paused turning off customers utilities at the request of the Memphis City Council. That decision came during talks to allocate additional funds to help with MLGW’s $22 million deficit from unpaid bills and fees since the pandemic started.
The utility said it will continue to work with customers who are behind on their bills and assistance is available through a number of community resources.
Memphis City Council member Martavius Jones had sponsored a resolution to use some CARES Act funding to help with the ongoing MLGW issues. That money is meant for the Memphis Zoo. He proposed making up the difference from the Memphis Police Department and Memphis Fire Department.
Customers who need help can call MLGW’s Customer Care Center to request enrollment in the extended payment program. They can find more information here: mlgw.com/COVID-19.