A range of government agencies are offering payment plans and waiving late fees.
Help is available for some furloughed federal employees who are struggling to pay utility bills during the partial government shutdown, but it depends on where they live. The city of Columbus announced that those affected by the shutdown can make minimal monthly payments on their city-provided utilities (which included water and sewer service as well as trash collection) without incurring penalties. The policy also applies to residents of suburban localities served by Columbus’ Department of Public Utilities. These include Dublin, New Albany, Grove City, Grandview Heights, Whitehall and Worthington, among others.
“Federal employees should not face penalties and potential loss of basic services like water because the federal government cannot work together to pass a budget,” Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said in a statement. Those seeking relief should call 614-645-8276 or bring proof of employment to the Michael B. Coleman Government Center at 111 N. Front St.
Bexley and Westerville, which provide and bill for their own utilities, are also offering federal employees the opportunity to set up a minimal payment plan and avoid penalties. Bexley residents in need should call the Bexley Water Department at 614-559-4270, and Westerville residents can call 614-901-6430 or stop in at 64 E. Walnut St.
No such relief plan is in place in Pickerington or Gahanna, according to officials of those cities contacted by phone, although Gahanna is exploring the possibility of offering relief. Such a plan would have to be approved by the mayor and city council.
AEP will work with customers in need to make payment arrangements, according to a representative of the electric utility provider. “Those impacted should contact us as soon as they realize they may have trouble paying their bill,” Scott Blake said in an email message. “Waiting until they have missed a payment can complicate the issue. We don’t have any specific programs in place but are committed to working with our affected customers.”
Columbia Gas has also announced that it will waive late payment fees and offer extended payment plans to government employees directly affected by the shutdown. Customers should call 1-800-344-4077 to discuss their situation.
Other public entities are stepping up to offer relief. Franklin County Treasurer Cheryl Brooks Sullivan offered assistance last week to U.S. government employees who have been furloughed or are working without pay. The Treasurer’s Office will provide expedited consideration for programs already in place to waive late fees and offer payment extensions to federal workers facing changes in their financial circumstances and in danger of falling behind on property taxes. Call 614-525-3438 for information.
The Franklin County Veterans Service Commission is extending its hours from 4 to 8 p.m. at its office at 280 E. Broad St. on Jan. 29 for veterans who have been furloughed and who may be able to take advantage of financial aid programs the agency offers to help with rent, mortgage, utilities or food.
Read our story on Columbus restaurants that have offered free meals to federal employees here.
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