JEA customers crushed by utility bill may benefit from emergency program

An emergency program through the City of Jacksonville’s Social Services Department might be the answer for some struggling residents in need.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An emergency program through the City of Jacksonville’s Social Services Department might be the answer for some struggling residents in need.

The Emergency Assistance Program allows residents to apply for financial help in the case of an emergency — such as “loss of a job, loss or reduction of household income, unexpected medical expenses, car repairs, a family dissolution, death in the family or an expense due to foreclosure, condemnation, fire or disaster.”

One of the services available is financial assistance to prevent eviction or interruption of utilities.

Those interruptions are a real factor for an unknown number of Jacksonville residents behind in their JEA payments.

When asked if the uncharacteristically high JEA fuel prices constitute as an emergency that would apply under the EAP, a spokesperson with the City of Jacksonville said the program is based mainly on “need,” and that each application will be reviewed and considered on a case-by-case basis.

“Financially, it was getting really hard,” Ashlee Castro said after waiting on the phone with JEA for more than two hours Friday. “Gas prices are going up and just everything’s going up. It’s really, it’s really hard for people right now.”

Ashlee Castro said she was able to work out a payment plan with JEA to avoid a service shut-off.

Castro said her outstanding balance will be moved to a separate payment account and that a percentage of her future payments will go toward paying down that balance.

Castro said she waited on phone calls for more than two hours to confirm that arrangement, but it’s unclear whether the same arrangement will be made available for other customers.

JEA said 8,000 customers were delinquent in their payments and stood to have their gas utility shut off as of Monday, the end of a six-week shut-off moratorium.

JEA pointed to the staggering fuel cost as the biggest contributing factor to the JEA bill increases.

The running price of natural gas, according to the NASDAQ, is $8.32 as of Thursday — about $3 more expensive than the same time last year, a 36 percent jump.

The main reason for that increase is a dip in supply, as the United States is working to supplement the fuel supply of western Europe to help U.S. Allies compensate for the cut-off of supply from Russia.

For JEA customers who are behind on their utility bills, they’ve been able to benefit from JEA suspending the shut-off of services for 6-weeks for customers who were behind in their payments. That six-weeks ends on Monday.

You can find more information about the qualifications and requirements on the city’s webpage about the EAP.

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