Utility arrangements being made post moratorium


Now that the statewide moratorium for disconnecting utilities has ended, local municipality utilities are establishing payment plans for delinquent accounts.

The moratorium, which forbade utility disconnections and housing evictions, ended Friday.

The Huntingburg Common Council, which is also the utility board, agreed last week to set up a payment process to allow delinquent bills to be paid over six months. Council members said those who are delinquent must be told of this option.

“If someone is delinquent and demonstrates financial hardship, [they] can make down payment and set up a delinquent payment,” City Attorney Phil Schneider said. “They must stay current on other payments going forward.”

While the council understood the hardship people may go through to pay back the bills, it also agreed that things must get back to some normalcy.

“We have a level of compassion. But everyone knew that this [moratorium] would eventually end,” Councilman Jeff Bounds said. “There are people who have struggled and paid their bills. They should not have to absorb other people’s bills.”

Ferdinand has been contacting customers with delinquent bills about its payment plan, Town Attorney Sharon Bohnenkemper said.

“I would suspect that the majority of the payment plans will be six-month plans,” she said. “It depends really on the nature of their circumstances and what the dollar amount is. It might be stretched out farther than that if there are extenuating circumstances or if the amount is a lot higher than the other ones that set up on six-month plans.” The town is waiving the fees and penalties that would have been issued during the period under the moratorium.

Those wanting to set up plans can must call Bohnenkemper’s office, 812-998-2571.

Jasper’s Utility Service Board decided to split past due amounts into six payments that will be billed in six installments starting this month. Customers will be responsible for the installment and the current bill. Normal disconnection procedures will resume at the end of the month.

July bills are not included in this arrangement, Utility Office Manager Ashley Kiefer explained.

“There are people who have bills that were issued in July that are due by the middle of next week, and not all of those bills have been paid yet. Those were not set up on these contracts because they were not yet due,” she said. “So there is still a possibility that they could be disconnected for some balances if they don’t contact us to make regular payment arrangements about those.”

There are organizations that offer some assistance for those experiencing hardship. Those include township trustees and local churches, as well as St. Vincent DePaul Society, Salvation Army and Tri-Cap. Indiana 2-1-1 also has information about assistance programs and organizations. That service can be reached by dialing 211 or 866-211-9966, or texting your zip code to 898-211.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s energy assistance program will be available starting Sept. 11. Tri-Cap administers that program locally.

“This is for folks who need help with their utilities who are low income,” said J. Jacob Sipe, executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. “So there is an income requirement here.”

The authority is also trying to help renters can need assistance. “We can provide up to four months of $500 per month of rental assistance. And that rental assistance can be back payments or going forward,” Sipe said. “But there does have to be a financial hardship. That's a loss of income, and it has to be tied to the pandemic.”

Renters can go to www.INdianahousingnow.org to submit an application online. The site also has information to explain the program to the applicant and the applicant’s landlord

“Landlords have to agree to participate as well,” Sipe said.

Homeowners who need help catching up on their payments can contact the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Assistance at www.877gethope.org or 877-GET-HOPE.

“There, you can submit an application," Sipe said. "And we can provide up to six months of mortgage payment assistance."

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