KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A KCK mother of four is scared for her kids' health and safety, after a utility company shut off her family's power Tuesday morning. Around 11 a.m., Jessika Dukes and her four young children were left in the dark.
“Oh, my heart stopped,” Dukes said. “I was like, ‘No it can’t be!’”
Her mind was racing as to why her electricity suddenly shut off and then she realized all the things her family was suddenly left without.
“Stove don`t work,” she said. “Our fridge, we can't really hold groceries in it because it won't keep nothing cold. So everything in it is all about to go bad.”
With temperatures expected to dip back below freezing come Thursday, “I`m pretty terrified,” Dukes said, “Because it`s going to be freezing and my house is going to be freezing quick.”
The Kansas City Board of Public Utilities (BPU) turned off her power because she fell behind on payments.
“I didn`t think it was due,” Dukes explained. “We really thought we had like a whole other week or so to get money paid.”
She now owes BPU nearly $760 that must be paid in full to get power restored.
“There`s no way,” she said of finding the money in the next few days. “No way… It’s impossible.”
Asking customers to pay in full after falling behind on payments and having their power shut off is standard procedure, according to a BPU spokesperson. Still, it is money Duke’s family just doesn't have right now.
“My husband works, he`s a delivery driver and business is not always steady,” said Dukes, who is a stay-at-home mom. “So we have to try to save up and try to make due. It’s not that easy. We`ve really got no one else to turn to...”
BPU said it always notifies customers before shutting off power and even offers payment plans to help people who anticipate tough times ahead. But Dukes claims she was never notified by call or mail.
“If they sent it,” she said, “I don`t know where it went because I have not received anything.”
A BPU spokesperson said he could not comment specifically about customer accounts. Dukes said she has been in touch with representatives from the BPU customer care helpline, but has been told there is little they can do to help her until she pays up.
So now she is focused on trying to keep her children warm and safe amid a tough reality.
“You feel like you`ve failed,” Dukes said. “Then they have to sit here with nothing. No electricity, no light, they got to sleep in the dark without their nightlight. They`re going to be miserable.”
Dukes had hoped her family might be protected by Kansas' Cold Weather rule, which according to the Kansas Corporation Commission, prohibits utility companies from disconnecting a customer's natural gas or electric service during periods of extreme cold.
The Rule requires utility companies to offer a 12-month payment plan to allow consumers to maintain or re-establish utility service.
- Utility companies may not initiate disconnection until temperatures are forecast to be above 35 degrees for the next 48 hours.
- Utility companies must contact the customer by phone or in-person 24 hours before disconnecting service.
- Utility companies are prohibited from disconnecting a customer's service when temperatures are forecast to be at or below 35 degrees over the next 24 hours.
A BPU spokesperson said it uses that as a guideline, but instead requires temps to be below freezing for 48 consecutive hours to prevent a power shut down. Bottom line – BPU suggests you protect yourself from a similar situation by planning ahead and asking for help creating – and sticking to – a payment plan.
They urge customers with questions to call customer service at (913) 573-9190.