Thousands in danger of having utilities cut off as MLGW resumes disconnections

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thousands of electric customers in Memphis are in danger of having their service cut off starting on Monday.

Memphis Light, Gas and Water suspended disconnections in March because of the pandemic. That moratorum was supposed to end earlier this month, but the utility company extended the program until Monday, August 24.

As of last month, 38,000 customers were behind on their electric bill.

Since the beginning, MLGW has been working with customers to avoid having to shut off their power. It’s expanded its payment plans to allow people more time to pay.

The utility said Monday that it was experiencing high call volume and phone lines would be open until 8 p.m.

But time has run out for many families.

MLGW cut the power to April Dill’s Northaven home Monday morning, leaving Dill and her eight children without utilities.

“I got behind due to, they kept saying I had a water leak,” Dill said. “My water bill was $300 for one month. For two months my water bill was $160 something.

MLGW disconnected her services for non-payment. She said she made arrangements to pay Tuesday but they cut her off a day early.

“They told me that I could pay tomorrow $347, and they told me I can go pay at Superlo. Wait an hour and then call back, and they were going to split my bill up in 12 months,” Dill said.

 Dill’s children attend Shelby County Schools and classes are all virtual because of the pandemic.

She picked up most of their school-issued computers but without electricity, they can’t use them and can’t learn from home.

“They can’t learn with the power off and the thing is, I spoke to someone to make sure my power don’t be cut off and they still cut my power off,” Dill said.

Gale Jones Carson with MLGW said the utility doesn’t want to cut customers off and is willing to work with them, “but we have been pleading for some time now please call us and make a payment arrangement.”

A Shelby County Schools spokesperson said they’re working with the state department of education and MLGW to come up with a plan for disconnections and future power outages that may interrupt the flow of electricity into entire neighborhoods.

There is no concrete plan yet but with the first day of school just one week away, it’s already an issue for families and mothers like Dill.

“I just keep calling MLGW,” Dill said. “I just can’t, there’s no way I can speak to anyone.”

Several organizations can also help. Shelby County’s Community Services Agengy distrubtes funds through the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. Another resource is the Metropolitian Interfaith Association.

The state of Tennessee is providing emergency cash assistance to families who have lost income due to the pandemic.

MLGW and the Tennessee Valley Authority has also set aside $400,000 in grants to help customers, but that won’t go far considering the total amount owed is in the tens of millions of dollars.

MLGW said it’s important you call them and learn what your options are before your service is disconnected.

For more information on community resources available click here.

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