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Help with utility bills available

June 07, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Financial assistance is available to hundreds of Hagerstown residents who are on the city's list to have their electricity shut off.

David Jordan, executive director of the Washington County Community Action Council, said the organization has at least $5,000 to disburse to residents who qualify.

"At the beginning of (last) week, we started to see terminations coming in," Jordan said.

Hagerstown Utilities Director Michael Spiker said in an e-mail that 1,800 city utility customers received notification in April that their bills were past due. Among other things, Spiker said, the city offered those customers the chance to enter into a payment plan, and gave them 15 days before their service was disconnected.

"As you can see, we make every effort in regard to notification," Spiker said. "This is done so that we can forward the customers to those agencies who can provide assistance."

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Spiker said about 300 of the 1,800 customers who received termination notices entered into a payment plan -- leaving roughly 1,500 customers who still haven't paid.

As of Friday, the city had cut off the power to about 500 of those customers.

"That would leave approximately 1,100 customers who still face termination for nonpayment," Spiker said.

The $5,000 that is available at the Community Action Council, which is at the corner of Summit Avenue and West Antietam Street in Hagerstown, was raised during the Utility Relief Benefit Concert in December at The Maryland Theatre, said Karen Giffin, director of community affairs for the City of Hagerstown.

Giffin said the concert raised about $12,000 for utility relief. The rest of the money will be distributed to the Community Action Council when the initial $5,000 stipend runs out, she said.

Households are eligible to receive up to $500 of assistance, according to program guidelines.

To qualify for utility relief, people must be a Hagerstown resident and provide evidence of need, such as an unexpected medical bill, job loss or reduction of hours at work.

Although the annual income eligibility was not available, last year's guidelines were $37,050 for a household of one; $42,350 for two; $47,650 for three; $52,950 for four; $57,200 for five; $61,650 for six; $65,650 for seven; and $69,900 for eight. For each additional person, add $7,830.

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