MESA, Ariz. - It's an unusual problem for one Valley city: there's $8 million in the pot available to residents who need help paying their bills, but few are taking the money and the mayor of Mesa is urging people to apply now.
Mesa officials recently allocated federal dollars it received for pandemic assistance, putting several million dollars into the city's utility assistance program.
There's plenty of money to give out to families that are struggling financially because of job loss or reduced hours.
"Our delinquencies for utility has gone up dramatically," said Mayor John Giles.
Officials say past due utility account balances now add up to more than $4.7 million, but the city now has even more to give out.
"We went from $1 million to $8 million," said Giles. “This fund is being underutilized right now. What we’re seeing for whatever reason, people are allowing these balances to grow and grow and grow.”
After a months-long moratorium, the city of Mesa will begin utility shutoffs again on Oct. 1.
Giles says Mesa also has plenty of money in its rental assistance program, too.
Phoenix also received CARES Act money -- the organization that distributes the funds had about $24 million, and has distributed about half of the funds already to more than 2,200 households.
Their main concern is that many people will face huge balances once the eviction moratorium ends at the end of the year.
"The CDC suspension came with no funding to help families through that crisis, so the money that’s in the community is really all that’s available unless Congress acts, which we hope they do,” said Cynthia Zwick of WildfireAZ.org. “Many agencies have been inundated with applications. So while the money is currently available in an account, the concern is there are many people in the queue to receive that support.”
Mesa's mayor says their queue is not yet inundated.
"There’s no reason to be shy or shamed or feel like this is other types of people. Please, that’s why we have this money," said Giles. "Let’s deal with the issues of rent and utilities before they become catastrophic problems that put you out on the street.”
Apply for rent, utility assistance in Phoenix: https://wildfireaz.org/phxcares
Apply for rent, utility assistance in Mesa: http://Mesaaz.gov/mesaCARES