Among the greatest needs our partner in Cleveland, Georgia, Caring Hands Ministries, sees is families requesting help in paying their utility bills when they are down on their luck.
“Utility help assists clients with verifiable needs and no other resources are available for the payment of power, gas, or water bills to prevent shut offs and loss of services,” reported Caring Hands executive director Erica Hernandez. “Need is verified with the utility company and payments are made directly to the utility company.
“One of our biggest assistance requests throughout the year is for power. water, or natural gas. These things are important for health and comfort, and we consider them basic human necessity. Water is even more essential for life itself as well as for hygiene,” she said.
“For people living in public housing and some private housing loss of utilities is also grounds for eviction,” she noted.
Erica explained that for many low-income families, she encourages them to use prepaid power programs which work like prepaid cell phones. But when their deposit is used up the service is immediately turned off.
However, for as little as $20 (about three days of average billing) the company will reactivate service without any reconnection fee.
“We can almost always help with at least $20 to prevent shutoff and give the client time to get paid or find another source,” she said. “We also encourage clients to pay a little ahead when they do have the money to prevent emergencies. In doing this, they also tangibly learn the value of saving for emergencies and develop more self-sufficiency.”
Among the households helped this fall with utility assistance was “Mary,” a mother of two young children who had decided to have her children do their schooling online for fear of them catching the coronavirus from the other students.
She was struggling to keep the power on consistently using prepaid power and could not afford to put much money on it very often as most of her money went towards paying rent and her water bill.
“When her lights were shut off, her kids were without power for cooking, school, and just daily activities,” Erica told us. “We were able to help to have the electricity be put back on so that she would have time to put some aside in order to keep a decent amount on her prepaid account.
“With having this grant from Americans Helping Americans® we are able to assist people who are facing difficult times or are in financial binds where they are forced to go without basic needs. We were able to provide them with the chance to keep their homes, have electricity and water, and have the support they need to just get back on their feet.
And Erica wants the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who make our utility assistance program possible and help families like Mary’s know that – “The children are thriving on their online schooling and their mother has managed to keep enough money on her prepaid power.”
This fall, we’re doubling our efforts to ensure 750 families have their lights on, the water they need, and the electricity to ensure education is still taking place.