The City of Independence is utilizing CARES Act funds to assist families that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 through a collaboration with the Community Services League to help them pay off delinquent utility bills. The Utility Assistance Program launches today, September 3, and applies to delinquent bills for City of Independence Utilities customers between March 1 and August 31, 2020. This is the first program of its kind in the metro area.
“We understand the challenges that the pandemic has raised for families in our area and as soon as we knew CARES Act funding was coming to our area, the utility assistance program was something we wanted to do,” Mayor Eileen Weir said. “We are unique in the area as we own three utilities as a municipality. We work regularly with our customers to provide payment options but the pandemic has created a major barrier for many families. There is nearly $2 million in delinquent bills at this time. This assistance program will take one worry off the shoulders of these families.”
The Utility Assistance Program is being administered by CSL which is utilizing a paperless format to make this as efficient as possible. Residents who believe they may qualify for the program can visit the website, cslhousing.org. Applications will be accepted beginning today, Sept. 3, however the review process will not begin until after the Labor Day Holiday and may take 3-4 weeks before disbursement of funds for each participant that is approved.
“We are proud to once again work with the City of Independence to help those families that need it most,” CSL CEO Doug Cowan said. “Talking to families over the last few months, we know bills continue to be a worry for those that have lost jobs or been asked to stay home due to a COVID-19 exposure. We’ve worked as a region to identify resources and plans to help when possible. This program is unique to Independence and shows the importance of this regional approach we have taken in eastern Jackson County. Not only can we help these families with this bill, we can get them additional services when needed.”
All CARES Act funds must be utilized by Dec. 30, 2020. There is approximately $2.2 million dedicated to the Utilities Assistance Program of the $6.9 million in CARES Act funds awarded to the City. Residents who wish to apply for the Utilities Assistance Program are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. Those that meet requirements may be connected with the LIHEAP program prior to participation in this new program. The City of Independence originally requested $23 million in CARES Acts funds but only received $6.9 million through Jackson County in August. The original request included more than $9 million for assistance programs to help fund the anticipated utility assistance program needs through the end of 2020.
The City of Independence is also working with the CSL as part of the Essential Services Function 6 (ESF6), which focuses on social services, to provide access to food resources throughout the region. An interactive map, which is regularly updated, is available at indep.us/covidhelp. You can find other services through CSL for those negatively impacted by COVID-19 at cslc19.org.