Alexandria asking for help on the federal level to assist struggling households pay utility bills
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The City of Alexandria is asking for help on the federal level for residents still struggling to pay their utility bills after many received a higher than normal bill during the most recent billing cycle.
These higher bills come after months of receiving estimated bills that were lower in cost than the utilities that residents were using. In response, to make up the difference from the estimated bills, some, if not most residents were expected to be charged more on their recent bills.
This all stems from the city being affected by a security breach back in June that shut down departments across the city, including the utility department. In addition to the network breach, the city was also dealing with a shortage of meter readers causing meters to not be read during the months of June, July and August.
Mayor Jeff Hall has emphasized that the utility department will not disconnect any customers’ utilities or charge late fees during this process. However, members of the city council are still worried about those low-income households in the city that are receiving those high utility bills.
“There are several people that will never be able to pay that bill,” said Council President Catherine Davidson during Tuesday’s council meeting.
The fear among city officials is even if residents start paying off their utility bills, they will be in an endless cycle until they can receive help in paying them off.
“We need to push to an even higher gear if possible in order to help come to a resolution on this as quickly as possible,” said Councilman Lee Rubin.
Davidson questioned during the council meeting if the city will have a credit set up for those that can’t pay their bills. Mayor Hall said while the city is still looking into possible internal solutions like a possible credit, they have asked lawmakers representing Louisiana in Washington D.C. for help in receiving federal dollars to assist struggling households.
“Are there dollars available that can help?” questioned Mayor Hall. “We are trying to see if there are some things that we can do or if there are things that we can do internally. I can’t definitively answer that right now, but I can assure you that we are working into it. We are going to work out whatever long-term payments need to be worked out with our citizens.”
Mayor Hall said he cannot estimate how long it will take for those families struggling to pay their utility bills to have them fully paid off. He added that most families in need of assistance are on fixed incomes.
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