IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK)-The city of Idaho Falls has approved a plan intended to help residential utility customers impacted by COVID-19.
The City Council voted earlier this year to suspend its policy of discontinuing service for customers who were past due on their bills. Prior to that, the city would suspend utility services for customers who were 45 days past-due on their bills with a balance in excess of $25.
Now that Idaho’s economy is beginning to reopen, the city is implementing a procedure to allow residents and small business to catch up on any past bills they incurred during the crisis. It is primarily aimed at helping people avoid being disconnected from city utilities.
“As non-profit enterprises, when utility accounts are not paid the costs are passed on to other customers,” said Pam Alexander, Director of the Municipal Services Department. “To avoid this from happening, the City wants to work with customers to provide options for them to be able to pay for the services they used. This plan does that in a fair and equitable way while still making sure customers can continue to receive uninterrupted electric, water, wastewater and sanitation services.”
First, the city will raise the overdue amount from $25 to $50 for residential customers. And, beginning July 1, customers will not be disconnected unless they are more than 195 days overdue.
Customers who are still struggling with past due balances are encouraged to contact the City of Idaho Falls Utility Office. Staff will work with customers and direct them to resources that might be available to help. Those include the Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership (EICAP) and its energy assistance program.
“There are a variety of ways we can help customers who may be struggling,” said Alexander. “With some of the CARES and other federal assistance available because of COVID-19 there are additional LIHEAP funds available through EICAP and SBA Loan Assistance for businesses potentially available.”
According to a news release, “the City also offers a variety of easy and convenient payment methods to help residents keep up with their utility payments including automated bank draft payments and paperless, or e-billing. Budget billing is also available, which removes peaks and valleys in utility costs and averages out payments evenly every month.
Payments can also be made at City Hall in person at the Treasurer’s office, at the 24/7 self-serve kiosk at City Hall, the 8 am-5 pm self-serve kiosk at Idaho Falls Power or at the drop box in the City Hall parking lot. Payments can also be made online at the city’s website or by calling the utility payment toll free number at 844-235-2019.”