Community

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has proposed $10 million in relief for tens of thousands of residents who are behind on utility payments because of COVID-19.

Throughout most of the pandemic, a statewide moratorium was in place preventing utilities from disconnecting customers’ gas, water, electricity and other services. Gov. Andy Beshear ended that moratorium on Nov. 6 with an order that requires utilities to set up payment plans for customers in arrears.

Fischer’s proposal, introduced Monday, will need Metro Council approval. The Office of Resilience and Community Services would be in charge of distributing a one-time credit to utility customers who are behind on their payments.

“The $10 million was a number that we could handle within the finances that we have,” Fischer said. “We certainly know it’s not going to take care of the entire problem, but it’s a very good start.”

How much and who is eligible remains to be decided. The plan is to make the funds available by mid-January, contingent on Metro Council approval.

In Jefferson County alone, the needs are staggering.  By the end of October, more than 18,000 residential customers owed an average of $430 on outstanding water/MSD bills — an 847% increase over mid-March.

At the same time, nearly 38,000 Louisville Gas and Electric customers owe an average of more than $400 on past due bills.

A survey of state utilities from this summer found customers are at least $75 million behind on payments — a figure state regulators say could balloon to $150 million by the end of the year, according to the Public Service Commission.

The ordinance is common-sense, people-centric legislation that would help a community in need, said District 3 Councilwoman Keisha Dorsey.

“I am proud to be a sponsor and we will fight to make sure this gets through to the council and passes with timely resolution so that we can get assistance to the citizens of this city,” Dorsey said.

The $10 million plan Fischer is proposing would come from general fund dollars freed up by CARES Act funding used in other parts of city government.

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