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As the pandemic presses on, close to 1 million Pennsylvanians are bracing for more of the unknown. Many continue to struggle with money, and now some are faced with the reality of utility shutoffs; KDKA's Royce Jones reports.
- New at 5:00, as the pandemic presses on, close to 1 million people in Pennsylvania are bracing for more of the unknown. Many continue struggling with their finances, and now some are faced with the reality of utility shutoffs.
- Royce Jones joins us now with what utility customers need to know. Royce?
ROYCE JONES: Well, you guys, those shut-off notices could start hitting people's doorknobs real soon. Providers can now terminate your service again, as the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has lifted the moratorium on shutoffs. But the good news tonight, you guys, comes in the form of cash grants available to help people keep the bills paid.
- I have a child myself that has epilepsy and a shunt in his head, and I'm a single parent with four kids.
ROYCE JONES: April 1, and life for this KDKA viewer is nothing to fool around about.
- The wind blows and my house shakes, you know what I mean?
ROYCE JONES: She did not want to be shown on camera, but tells me she is one of many customers with genuine concerns about the Pennsylvania Utility Commission rolling back its shut-off ban beginning today.
- It's not fair to those that is not able to pay their rate, you know what I mean? Or pay the light bill, or pay the gas. I just think it's a disgrace.
ROYCE JONES: Over the past year, calls to the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania's 211 line exploded by 50%. The organization is now bracing for even more calls for help.
BOBBI WATT GEER: We're here to help direct people and connect people.
ROYCE JONES: The United Way suggests calling the utility companies first, because some are offering their own assistance. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Dollar Energy Fund, for example, will send a check straight to your provider covering some or all of the cost. The United Way can also help determine your eligibility. And while the bills keep piling up--
- There's nothing I can do but just keep the faith, and do what I can do, and just hope, pray god may help me through it--
ROYCE JONES: --tonight, some are staying prayed up. And live at 6:00, we're looking at some of the available payment options for people so that they can pay down their debt while still keeping everything on. I'm Royce Jones, KDKA News.