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Essential service to end shut-off grace period

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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — In recent weeks, a lot of attention has been paid to the future of federal unemployment bonuses—and the end to a nationwide moratorium on evictions.

This coming weekend, another impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to start being felt.

Hundreds of families in our region are facing the likely threat of having their water shut off due to the financial hardship caused by the pandemic.

Several water companies in the tri-state area say it’s now time for them to get back to business. For five months, they’ve avoided cutting off water to folks who could not make the payments. But now, the grace period is over.

“Everybody has bills to pay, this is a hard time for everybody and we do have some understanding but we do have a business to run here.”

Brett Thomas, public service director, City of Ironton, Ohio

The period of pandemic forgiveness is over. Businesses are slowly reopening, some people are returning to work, and water companies now say it’s time to get back on track.

“Businesses need to go on, people do need to pay their bills.” 

Sharra Huffman, customer service supervisor, Putnam Public Service District

With the coming of August, the moratorium ends, and the terminations begin. Tuesday the fourth in the Putnam district, and the 15th in Ironton. Thomas says even before the pandemic, there were quite a few in the community who had trouble meeting the cost.

“We averaged probably 50-70 shut-offs a month and we’re a town of 10,000 plus people.” 

Brett Thomas, public service director, City of Ironton, Ohio

For Huffman, the average was around 100 shut-offs a month.

Thoman is hopeful the numbers won’t climb much higher, though.

“I do believe it’s not going to be something that’s unsightly.  I think it’ll be probably over normal but I think it’s workable.” 

Brett Thomas, public service director, City of Ironton, Ohio

If you want to keep your water flowing, utility companies say to call them about payment options.

Most utilities offer either a ‘promise to pay’ option or a deferred payment agreement.’ The first gives you a couple of extra days to get caught up; the other stretches out the money you owe over a longer period—as long as you keep current once the agreement is approved.

All of the utilities in the region have a single piece of advice: if you are behind in your payments, call now, don’t wait.

“There’s always options, we want to stress that to our customers that they do not need to be terminated.” 

Sharra Huffman, customer service supervisor, Putnam Public Service District

Some of the companies say they are only sending termination notices attached to the monthly bill, while others are making phone calls and other efforts to let you if you are in danger of being shut off. Therefore, it’s vital to make sure you know what your own local company’s policy is.

If you are in the Ironton, Ohio area and would like to get in touch with Ironton Public Services, call (740) 532-3353.

If you are in the Putnam, West Virginia area and would like to get in touch with Putnam Public Service District, visit this website.

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