COVID-19’s financial impact: Locals struggle to pay utility bills

BRUNSWICK COUNTY (WWAY) — The pandemic has affected all of us this year, and many still suffer from the financial impacts.

Since the end of Governor Cooper’s moratorium on utility shutoffs in July and September, many are struggling to pay their bills, paying for electricity now and paying off debt accrued between March and July.

The moratorium for municipal and cooperative businesses like Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation ended July 29. Now, customers like Shaneka Evans find themselves overwhelmed paying off debt while trying to keep the lights on.

“What is the reason to not shut our power off,” Evans asked, “for us to have to pay that money back that we couldn’t afford then? To have to afford it now? You know, we just can’t afford it.”

Evans is sick and out of work with a 12-year-old child. She says her lights have gone out every two days for weeks.

​ “It’s kind of hard, too, because there are basically a lot of people that have lost their jobs,” said Evans. “I mean they literally… it’s so hard right now. It’s hard for everybody right now.”

Though Governor Cooper’s utility shutoff moratorium began March 31, Corey Thurlow, Brunswick Electric’s Chief Operating Officer says they started helping customers March 15.

“We started the process of discontinuing disconnections before that even came out,” Thurlow said, “and then as far as repayment plans, we’re on a 12 month plan (giving customers 12 months to repay debt) instead of a six month like was ordered.”

Thurlow says they notified customers through mail, email, and Facebook posts when the moratorium ended back in July. Since then, he says they’ve worked to personalize plans or direct customers to state and charitable resources to help fill the gaps.

According to Thurlow, “Most of this repayment will be over a 12 month period, but if they’re struggling to keep up with that repayment plan, we are working with them on a one to one basis.”

Thulow said Brunswick Electric is doing everything they can to help, asking customers to call for assistance or information, instead of getting left in the dark.

If you’re having trouble paying bills or making rent, there are several resources available to you.

In Brunswick County, Brunswick Family Assistance Agency and Brunswick County DSS are accepting applications for financial help.

In New Hanover, New Hanover County Community Action is able to help with utilities and rent as well as food and shelter.

The Pender Columbus County Departments of Social Services are also here to help.

The Salvation Army can help residents in all of our counties with utility bills, as well as shelter, food, and any other emergency needs.

Categories: Brunswick, Local, News, Top Stories

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