MEMPHIS, Tenn. — MLGW customers worried about not having enough money to pay their bills once the utility company starts cutting off electricity, water and gas again could get some help from a proposed emergency fund.
Tuesday night a city budget committee agreed to fund a million dollars for an emergency fund because of the pandemic.
The council is debating if they can use federal stimulus money. That’s important because this year’s budget is tight but everyone on the budget committee agreed some kind of assistance has to be ready for customers battling poverty who fallen behind on their utility bill, especially during and after the pandemic.
“I think it is important that we are able to keep people paying their bills,” Memphis City Councilman Dr. Jeff Warren said. “We want to keep them from dying of heat exhaustion in the summer and freezing in the winter.”
During a budget hearing Tuesday night, MLGW asked the council to fund a million dollars for its Emergency Assistance Program started in 2008 to help customers who are disabled, military dependents and already getting state assistance.
“I think it would be a good idea to get some feedback from MLGW about the number of cutoffs anticipated from the moratorium is lifted,” Councilmember Rhonda Logan said.
Everyone on the budget committee supported funding the program but had questions about whether they can use funds from the $113 million the city got from the CARES Act.
The council already gave some of the federal funds to non-profits to help citizens impacted by the pandemic, but it has limits.
Using city money comes with restrictions as well, but in a tight budget season, the council wants to see if there is another option to help those in need.
“Every day they are reaching out to us and they may not be impacted by the COVID-19 but I am sure they are,” Council Chairwoman Patrice Robinson said.
Council will discuss the issue again on Friday as they take a closer look at options to spend the city’s CARES Act money.
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