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Bill could bring relief to families struggling to pay utility bills

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Posted at 6:50 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 18:51:07-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- As the temperatures turn cooler, many families who currently struggling to keep up with rent are also struggling with paying utility bills.

Dana Wiggins says their agency VA Poverty Law Center has heard first-hand the tough decisions families are having to make to survive.

"Do I pay my rent, or do I pay some on my rent and use the other amount of whatever I have on utilities? Do I stay warm or keep the roof over my head?" Wiggins explained.

She tells CBS 6 that Virginians should know there is help. Some of the relief soon available will be made possible because of provisions put in a budget bill that state lawmakers addressed during the General Assembly special session.

All it needs now is the Governor's signature and Wiggins says some provisions will lighten the load for families.

She gave a few examples of relief that will help families once the bill is signed.

"In the budget, there were agreements around the alleviation of arrearages for Dominion customers specifically. If you are a Dominion Energy customer, any arrearages that may have accumulated as of September 30 will be forgiven after the budget is signed. The budget allows for up to 24 months as a repayment on any utility debt," Wiggins said.

She adds the bill will also make way for utility companies to apply to the State Corporation Commission for money from the CARES ACT to be used for customers' past due utility balances.

She says families should apply right away for the still available, one-time, $300 heating assistance payment by contacting their local social services department.

Wiggins says the website is another helpful resource for families. It's an online tool they can use to find and apply for assistance.

Currently she says the Virginia Poverty Law Center is working on establishing a utility relief hotline for families. In the meantime, people can reach out to VPLC at 804-782-9430.

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