JAMESTOWN — There are options and help available for Jamestown Board of Public (BPU) customers in danger of service shut-off for lack of payment, according to Rebecca Robbins of the BPU.
Customers in financial straights are urged to seek help available from newer assistance programs for overdue utility bills.
Due to COVID-19, the State of New York has placed a moratorium on utility disconnections. Once that regulation is lifted, however, the BPU will have to reinstate such shut-offs as the utility is not permitted to forgive bills due for services used.
For this reason, the BPU appeals to customers who may qualify for assistance with unpaid utility bills to apply as soon as possible to several programs that operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
Secondly, customers are advised to call the BPU Customer Service Office at 661-1660 to request a payment plan so that their entire balance is not due all at one time.
The most recently revealed assistance plan is one offered by Chautauqua Opportunities called the New York State Emergency Solutions Grant from the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance. The purpose of these funds is to help Chautauqua County residents pay their overdue utility bills as far back as six months of owed payments.
To begin this process, the customer should call the Chautauqua County Social Services Office at 661-8200. Social Services also offers other types of help with past due utility bills.
A separate BPU Assistance Program is accepting applications for BPU customers who reside in Jamestown; were current on BPU bills through March, 2020; have received no financial assistance from the Department of Social Services for utilities; and have received a termination notice from the BPU.
Completed applications should be submitted to the Department of Development, Jamestown City Hall,
200 East Third Street, Jamestown.
Aid through this program could pay a customer’s entire BPU bill. The BPU Assistance Program resulted from a Community Development Block Grant awarded to the City’s Department of Development. Information about the program and an application for assistance are posted on the home page of the Jamestown BPU website at www.jamestownbpu.com and in hard copy in the BPU’s Customer Service Office, 92 Steele Street.
Applications also are posted on the City of Jamestown’s website at www.jamestownny.gov and in hard copy in the Department of Development at City Hall, 200 East Third Street. Completed applications should be taken to the Department of Development where staff will review all
submissions in the order in which they are received.
Questions about the program may be directed to personnel at the BPU and at the City of Jamestown
Department of Development. BPU Customer Service Supervisor Heather Flowers may be reached by phone at 661-1663 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Stephanie Wright of the City Department of Development may be contacted by phone at 483-7654.
Another opportunity is the Johnson/BPU Good Neighbor Fund which offers aid to BPU customers who maintain a record of regular payments to the utility until they experience a sudden hardship such as COVID-19. The Salvation Army administers the Johnson/BPU Good Neighbor Fund and requires a phone call for an appointment at 664-6108. The process is quick and easy.
Lastly, the Heating Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is available for assistance. People who have received HEAP and still have overdue BPU bills should contact their caseworkers for additional help in the form of Emergency HEAP. Call HEAP for regular or Emergency HEAP at 753-4385.
“These avenues of help for BPU bill payments are a very significant opportunity for customers with past due accounts,” states BPU General Manager David Leathers. “That’s why it is important for customers to apply as soon as possible for aid. The help is there, and we hope our customers will reach out to receive it.”
The BPU chose to suspend disconnections of service in March as part of the utility’s response to COVID-19. The State of New York shortly followed by restricting utility shut-offs throughout the State. At some point in the future, the State will lift this order and utilities such as the BPU will have to resume disconnections for lack of payment.