Omaha nonprofit, OPPD offer help with utility assistance

6 On Your Side on how to avoid getting utilities shut off
Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 4:37 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Every year around this time the folks at Together Omaha see an increase in calls for utility assistance.

Getting your utilities cut off can mean more than just going without lights.

“And you know if your utilities get shut off this will eventually lead to eviction because you’re not allowed to live in a place without utilities,” said Erin Feichtinger.

Erin Feichtinger is with Together Omaha, a nonprofit working to prevent hunger and homelessness in the Omaha area.

Erin says the pandemic has played a role in increased utility bills and that’s a problem in homes where money is tight.

“You have kids at home using the computers for virtual learning all of that cost money and has a disproportionate impact, particularly on low-income families who really don’t have the wiggle room to pay for those increased costs.”

Officials at OPPD say cutting off utilities is the last resort, it’s something they really don’t want to do. Officials say 90% of customers are not behind in their payments but that doesn’t mean all of the 10% who are behind will receive shut-off notices.

“Your past due balance has to be above $200 dollars in order for you to get a disconnect notice so what happens with that process is once that disconnect notice is issued then those customers have 10 days to respond to that,” said Britton Gabel, OPPD.

When the pandemic hit, OPPD began to see an increase in the number of customers falling behind on their bills. The utility got in front of the situation by securing funds for their customers.

OPPD worked with Douglas County Commissioners securing $2 million of CARES Act funds for Douglas County customers. The utility also received CARES funds for their rural customers.

“Our numbers are at pre-pandemic levels due to the amount of assistance that has been available to our customers to help mitigate that circumstance, if that would not have been the case I’d be telling you a different story today.”

Erin says those federal funds are key to keeping the lights on and keeping people in their homes.

“Which is why we need to take advantage of every opportunity we have to continue to provide assistance but we also need to be really creative and innovative in taking this moment to find longer-term solutions.”

If OPPD customers need help with the bill they should call the customer care representatives.

For assistance call 402-536-4131 or toll-free outside of Omaha at 877-536-4131. Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m.

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