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Leon CARES program expands eligibility to help those in need keep utilities on

Posted at 11:11 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 23:12:36-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Hundreds of thousands of Florida utility customers behind on payments could lose their power.

For many, the struggle to pay utilities has only increased during the pandemic. Tuesday, the Florida Public Service Commission struck down a petition looking to keep the power on for those who have not been able to pay their utilities for the past 90 days.

The League of United Latin American Citizens led the charge for the emergency rule initiation that could have saved thousands of people from getting their lights turned off.

They hope to get those who have not paid their bills more time to pay up.

In a statement PSC Chairman says in part:

"From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission has been closely watching the effects on Florida’s utility customers. Under the Commission’s supervision, utilities have been taking steps to limit the hardships borne by customers, through payment plans, deferral arrangements, relief funding, and other options. As a result, the rule amendments requested are not necessary. It is very important for customers that are behind on bills to contact their utility to make arrangements.”

In Leon County commissioner Rick Minor says they are doing everything possible to make sure people who need it have help.

"If you're a family or just an individual who is trying to make ends meet because of COVID, whether it's a mortgage, rent, utilities, the Leon Cares Program has now expanded its criteria for eligibility," said Minor.

Leon Cares Act relief for individuals is increasing to $5,000, up from $3,000.

The county also notes companies like Talquin and Tallahassee Utilities, who will help those in need.

Although this did not go through at the PSC, the county says they are trying to provide as many options as possible.

The Public Service Commission says they will continue to monitor the pandemic's ongoing impact on customers and, if needed, will take further action.