Metro Louisville

A new Louisville Metro partnership is offering relief for tens of thousands of customers behind on their utility bills, many for the first time. 

The city’s Metro COVID-19 Utility Relief Fund has set aside $10 million to help Jefferson County residents with past-due bills.

Customers with outstanding balances accrued between March and December of last year are eligible for a one-time credit of up to $500 apiece for unpaid balances with Louisville Water Company/Metropolitan Sewer District and Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities. The relief funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

At a press conference Monday, Mayor Greg Fischer said the city established the fund to help residents who saw their incomes reduced because of the pandemic, and are now facing difficult decisions. 

“I’m talking about people who want to pay their bills but face impossible choices like, ‘Do I pay the electric bill do I buy food, do I put shoes on my babies feet, should I pay the water bill or refill prescriptions?’” Fischer said.  

As of mid-March and — the start of the pandemic — 1,900 customers were behind on their water and sewer bills, Fischer said. Now, more than 15,000 are behind on their bills with an average unpaid balance of $700. 

For about 80% of those customers, it was only their first or second time being behind on a payment, said Louisville Water Company vice president Kelley Dearing-Smith.

Another nearly 28,000 LG&E customers are behind on their bills with an average past-due amount of $400. To date, no residential customers have been disconnected for non-payment of balances during the pandemic, said LG&E spokesperson Eileen Saunders. 

Based on the number of customers in need and the size of the average unpaid bill, it’s clear the city’s $10 million won’t be enough to fill the gap for everyone. The current amount in the fund is enough to cover 20,000 customers with a single credit of $500. 

At the same time, LG&E has proposed increasing rates on electric and gas customers this year. The typical residential customer with both gas and electricity would pay an average of $215 more per year under the proposed increase. Fischer said he’s hopeful the city can negotiate for a lesser increase. 

“There’s a lot of people struggling right now, especially at the low-income level so that needs to be taken into consideration at a time like this,” he said. 

Louisville Metro is funding the relief program using $10 million in general fund dollars freed up because of federal coronavirus relief legislation. The city will distribute the funds to eligible customers through the Office of Resilience and Community Services and the Association of Community Ministries. 

State Relief 

On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced up to $38 million in federal funds for local governments to help customers pay for overdue utility bills. Local governments can request up to $200,000 for assistance from the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Response program.

Eligible residents living in a community where funding has been approved can receive up to $250 for six consecutive months if they’ve been financially impacted by COVID-19, are behind on utility bills and received notices for disconnection between January 21, 2020, through January 25, 2020 (and/or up to two months following).

To learn more about how to apply, Kentucky residents should reach out to their local government or the Kentucky Council of Area Development Districts.

How To Apply For COVID-19 Utility Relief Fund (Information provided by Louisville Metro)

Metro COVID-19 Relief LG&E Assistance

Contact one of the following:

  1. Call your local Community Ministry at www.louisvilleministries.org or call Metro United Way’s 2-1-1 to locate the ministry nearest you, or
  2. Schedule an appointment in advance with Neighborhood Place by calling 502-977-6636 or visit online at LGEHelp.itfrontdesk.com

Eligibility for the Metro LG&E Relief Program:

  • Jefferson County residency
  • Experienced a COVID-related economic hardship
  • Have a past due/delinquent LG&E electric or gas bill (arrearage must have occurred March 16 – December 31, 2020)
  • There are no income restrictions to receive this utility assistance, however, income documentation is required to gain entry into the LG&E program.

Documentation may include (check Community Ministry and Neighborhood Place for specifics):

  • Photo ID for adult(s) in the household
  • Social Security card(s) or official documentation with Social Security numbers for everyone living in the household (or Permanence Residence/Green Card)
  • Current bill with a past due balance, or a brown, disconnect notice from LG&E. (Arrearage must have occurred between March 16 through December 31, 2020).
  • When applying via Neighborhood Place, the LG&E Utility Assistance Application form can be downloaded here or found at Neighborhood Place office drop boxes that include the income documentation form.

Metro COVID-19 Relief Louisville Water Company/MSD Assistance:

Contact Louisville Water Company:

  • Apply online using the self-service portal at LouisvilleWater.com/MetroReliefPortal
  • Customers without computer access can visit local Community Ministries, make an appointment with the Louisville Free Public Library or visit Louisville Water at 550 South Third Street.

Eligibility:

  • Have a residential account in Jefferson County
  • Have a past-due balance sometime between March 16, 2020 – December 31, 2020
  • Identify a COVID-19 based financial hardship

Residents can apply for both LG&E and Water/MSD bill assistance.

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