The Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Public Utilities will resume utility disconnections, as a moratorium on shutoffs is expiring.
The BPU’s moratorium on shutoffs lasts through Nov. 3. BPU board members did not extend the moratorium at the Oct. 20 meeting. As stated at the last BPU meeting, any shutoffs would be phased in slowly in November.
BPU officials said at Wednesday night’s meeting that they will conduct an effort to notify customers by phone calls that the shutoffs will start again. Other methods also are being used to notify customers, such as through the website, messages in their bills, and social media.
All residential customers will receive the robo phone calls starting Thursday, according to BPU officials.
Patrice Townsend, BPU director of utility services, said at the meeting there had been 110 calls to the BPU’s hotline for utility assistance, and they assisted 77 customers. In 15 of the calls, the customers did not qualify for the KERA program. The remaining 62 represented about $36,000 in unpaid utility bills.
About 34 of those are pending, and 11 of the calls came in the last 24 hours, she said. They completed 28 applications, representing a little over $21,000 for potential funds, to help assist with delinquent bills, she said.
The BPU website is not getting a lot of hits, she said, and they are still at only 12 emails. A temporary assistant started Oct. 11, and today met with three customers at a public library, so that they could use the computers there to apply for KERA assistance.
They are planning to meet from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the West Wyandotte Library on Tuesdays and Thursdays to assist customers with KERA applications, she said. Customers need to make appointments with BPU in advance, before going there.
Customers have to have certain documents to make the application, and if they don’t have them, they can’t complete the applications, she said.
Johnetta Hinson, BPU executive director of customer service, said they don’t know how many people have applied to KERA, but they only know when a person has “prequalified” with KERA. When they are prequalified, an alert or a hold is placed on their BPU account and the power is not turned off, she said.
Anyone who is prequalified by KERA will still be on the “do not shutoff” list even after the Nov. 3 moratorium ends, until the BPU receives the payment from KERA or receives other communication from KERA, according to Hinson.
Bill Johnson, BPU general manager, said there was a lot of communication with KERA in the spring, and he is now getting more information on communication issues. He did not receive the rejection rate information about BPU customers, however.
“What I’m hearing now is things have certainly sped up, reporting is a lot better, and we know quicker what’s going on than we did back at that period of time,” he said.
Hinson said beside robo calls, information on KERA and the moratorium is on BPU customers’ bills.
David Mehlhaff, BPU chief communications officer, said there were quite a few customers who sent Facebook messages to the BPU in October asking about the end of the moratorium. He said the BPU did a news release that was widely distributed, put a message banner on its website, and various media covered the coming end of the moratorium. Messages were placed on the bills that went out, and messages also went out to Flex Pay customers. Messages also were on Facebook and Twitter. Mehlhaff said he spoke to a group of about 60 community residents on Tuesday night, they were aware of the end of the moratorium coming, but the people there didn’t seem to be too interested in it. Some of the neighborhood newsletters also have carried the information, along with the UG’s e-newsletter.
“We always remind them that we’ll work with you, there’s still assistance out there, and we’ll set up a payment arrangement,” Mehlhaff said.
The KERA website has statewide numbers, and also shows information on counties, showing Wyandotte County with 1,252 applications in process, and 1,400 applications funded for $6.5 million, Mehlhaff said. Wyandotte County is one of the top in the state for applications.
The KERA program is currently for renters, although there is discussion about expanding the program to homeowners around the end of the year. The KERA program is still open.
There also are a limited number of other utility assistance programs that could be available soon through area social service agencies.
Those who are in a two-person household making less than $55,050 may qualify for KERA assistance. To see income limits for those who apply for KERA, visit https://kshousingcorp.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/KERA-Income-Limits-for-website.pdf.
Customers who have BPU billing or service questions may call 913-573-9190 to speak with a utility representative. Different payment plans are available. More information is at https://bpu.com/About/MediaNewsReleases/BPULiftsMoratoriumonDisconnectsNovember3rd.aspx.
To see a past story about the BPU moratorium on shutoffs, visit http://www.wyandottedaily.com/bpu-extends-moratorium-on-electric-shutoffs-to-nov-3/.