Utilities to resume disconnecting service for past due bills, high cost to reconnect

Business

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Moratoriums on evictions and power disconnection helped many avoid financial disaster during the pandemic. But now, those programs are ending and a huge crush of bills are due. 
 
After 14 months with two separate windows of not cutting off anyone’s power, Evergy is resuming disconnections.

For some, getting the lights back on and staying afloat is proving nearly impossible.  

While there’s help available, advocates fear it’s not enough to save families on the brink of disaster.

Bonnie Phillips is coming off a tough year. Her hours at work were cut back and the single mom has also gone without child support, after her exes lost work and couldn’t pay. 

“Having to choose between getting food, getting the things my kids with disabilities need. You have to balance do I get this today or do I get this,” said Phillips. 
 
Her electricity bill was one she couldn’t afford to pay, and it reached $977.74.  

Bonnie says May 3, the day the power company resumed disconnections, her service was abruptly cut. When she called Evergy, she said they told her it would take $700 to restore service. 

“It kind of feels predatory,” Phillips said. 

She took out a high-interest loan to pay bills last summer, which she’s still trying to pay off. Her grandma let her borrow cash to reconnect utilities, adding to her debt. Assistance programs have indicated she makes barely over the income threshold to qualify or funds to help have run dry.
 
“It’s overwhelming, honestly,” Phillips said. 
 
Build Power MoKan is a new consumer advocacy group, which helped get power disconnection moratoriums extended. But it believes Evergy can, and should, be doing more to help its customers in this unprecedented crisis. 

“It’s mounting up and there just not, have not been adequate safety nets in place and the programs that exist now are not going to cut it,” said Beth Pauley, with Build Power MoKan and the Climate Energy Project. 

Evergy insists it’s doing more than ever to help, like giving customers extra time to pay overdue bills and connecting them to COVID-19 relief funds in the community. 

“We understand these programs can take several weeks for the applications to go through and sometimes people don’t have several weeks in order to get that bill paid so that’s where that crucial communication between the company and customer comes into play, so we can set up arrangements and keep your service on,” said Maria Lopez, Evergy customer affairs manager. 

We’re also working for you with resources to help with rent and utilities in both Missouri and Kansas.  

Those struggling to pay mounting bills hope more assistance will come and that it sparks a conversation about the growing problem of energy affordability. 

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