COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The City of Columbia said Friday that it will resume utility disconnects on Oct. 5.
The city temporarily suspended utility disconnections in March for nonpayment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city is now asking individuals with past-due balances to bring their accounts current before Oct. 2.
Assistant Director of Utilities Sarah Talbert said the city has 13 billing cycles. She said for some of those cycles it’s been almost a year since utilities have been disconnected.
“We have city ordinances in place that don’t allow us to disconnect in the winter when temperatures get to a certain degree and in the summer,” Talbert said.
Talbert said the city started disconnects at the end of February and beginning of March for only a week and then the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“So we decided internally in mid-March that we would put a moratorium on disconnects at that time,” Talbert said. “Needless to say we didn’t know it was going to last this long.”
Tablbert said the city felt that based on the volume of customers and the dollar amount they made the decision to resume utility disconnects. She said the city is trying to look at both the customer side of things and also the utility side of things.
“We didn’t want to put them in a situation where they would have a very, very difficult time being able to pay their past due amounts,” Talbert said. “We also had to look at our financial situation on the other side too, we’re starting to get questions from our credit rating agency asking about the number of delinquencies we had and how much is outstanding.”
She said just over $4 million is owed from past-due accounts.
“We know right now, there’s just roughly 7,400 accounts that are delinquent,” Talbert said. “And of that 7,400 ... just under 5,800 of those are pending disconnect.”
Talbert said out of the five utility services offered through the city only water and electricity can be disconnected.
According to the press release, individuals can make payments through the following methods:
- Online at MyUtilityBill.CoMo.gov with a credit or debit card (no convenience fees) or checking/savings account
- By phone at 573-874-7694 with a credit or debit card (no convenience fees) or checking/savings account
- At City Hall, 701 E. Broadway, with cash, check, money order, credit or debit card
- Drive-thru: M-F, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Cashiers Office: M-F, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Talbert said the city is offering assistance and is willing to work with customers.
The city also stated utility payment assistance may be available by contacting the department at 573-874-7380 or email at UCS@CoMo.
Central Missouri Community Action is also a local organization that provides money from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps families with energy costs.
Colita Harvey, program officer at CMCA, said Missouri has increased the amount of money the organization can use to assist families.
She said previously the group could only help families with up to $300 for their utility bill. But now she said the state has increased the amount to $600.
"Now, we can not put a credit on their bill," Harvey said. "But we can assist them up to the amount of $600."
Harvey said funding will be available during the fall and winter and she said she expects to see a rise in assistance requests now that the city of Columbia is beginning disconnects again.
"Ever since the city of Columbia has issued that notice saying that they are disconnecting we have received an increase of energy assistance requests," Harvey said.
She said her suggestion is to not wait to apply for utility assistance until there is a threat of disconnect but she urges people to apply in advance.
More information on how to apply for CMCA's utility assistance program can be found here.