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City to consider lifting utility bill moratorium

Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 18:08:27-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Since March the City of Tallahassee has stopped disconnecting utilities for people who've failed to pay their bills.

It was in an effort to provide some grace for those who have struggled due to the pandemic. Although now, city leaders are looking to make a change.

With talks of re-instating disconnections for unpaid bills, it could end relief that people like Trish Brown depended on.

"We have other finances," said Brown. "We have other problems. We have healthcare to pay, we have car insurance, we have daycare."

City of Tallahassee Chief Customer Service Officer James Barnes said 11,800 families and 339 businesses are at least one month behind on their utility bills. Those unpaid bills add up to about $9.4 million. Barnes said if they keep letting bills go unpaid, it's going to add up in another way.

"When one person doesn't pay, that debt has to be passed onto everyone else. So as we approach more than nine million dollars in debt, if we're not able to recover from that, then we would have to raise the rates so everyone would pay," said Barnes. "We most certainly don't want to do that."

If commissioners do not decide to resume utility disconnections, the city will look at other options but haven't said exactly what those will be. A decision could come during the next council meeting next Wednesday.

If approved, .people will still get 30 days' notice before getting cut-off. The city said they'll try to help through the U.S. Treasury Utility, Rental Relief Assistance program and referrals to local non-profits.