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Louisville Gas and Electric has already shut off the power to Khalid Raheem’s house, where he owes more than $1800, but he’s more worried about his business. 

To his students, he’s Grandmaster Khalid, a 10th degree black belt and the owner of the Arabian Federation Martial Arts Academy, a martial arts studio at 28th and Broadway.  But between the pandemic and chilly temperatures, he’s worried he won’t be able to keep the lights on. 

“We don’t bring in enough, we pay what we can pay on the LG&E and the water. The balances roll over, the balances roll over,” he said. “And then every fifth or fourth month it’s a knock upside the head.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

The Arabian Federation Martial Arts Academy at 28th Street and Broadway.

Raheem’s business isn’t the only one struggling to keep up on utility bills. LG&E disconnected around 100 businesses in January, and another 1,000 or so are behind like Raheem. On average they owe around $900. 

Similarly, 136 businesses are in the disconnect category for their water and sewer bills. They owe an average of about $1,800. 

Last week, Raheem asked for donations to help him pay off those bills. In a video set up by 502 live streamers, he addressed the community. 

“I need everybody to understand I need help. I need help for these babies and if they are in here they are not out there,” Raheem said. 

While there is help available for residents through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP, there are few resources to help businesses struggling to pay utilities. 

WFPL News reached out to two separate city departments and the power company. None of them are aware of any utility assistance programs for businesses, though both LG&E and Louisville Water Company do have payment plans to help keep services on and pay off debts overtime. 

Raheem says LG&E’s payment plan didn’t work out for him. He also said this isn’t just about his livelihood: His business is a resource for the community. In fact, part of the reason he’s behind on bills is because he cuts breaks for people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford this sort of program. 

“Being in the west end down here we don’t have expendable income from the parents,” Raheem said. “What happened is we are giving discounts anyway and then we have kids who can’t pay because of one reason or another and we don’t turn those kids away.”

As we talked, kids did school work at nearby tables. That’s because Raheem offers up the studio for both homeschooling and virtual learning for parents who need the help mid-pandemic. 

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Kids working on classwork at the Arabian Federation Martial Arts Academy

Raheem says he also has a clothes closet where he gives out coats and backpacks, even diapers. That sort of community outreach is why he says leaving isn’t an option. 

“Life is going to throw you a sidekick, life is going to knock you down. You have to learn to get back up. You have to learn that you have a purpose.”

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.