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Bill assistance needs high during pandemic: How you can get help

Many are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. And, a lot of people are having to seek financial and food assistance for the first time.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala — Many are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. A lot of people are having to seek financial and food assistance for the first time. The Census Bureau’s “Household Pulse Survey” reports about 1 in 5 adults who are renting right now are not caught up on their payments. 

Our team tells you how you can get help paying your bills. 

WATCH: Food Bank of North Alabama closed until Nov. 30

We will be seeing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic long after we receive a vaccine. A lot of people have been impacted financially. At Huntsville Assistance Program, they have the ability to help you pay your bills. But, they say at the holidays approach, more and more calls have been coming in.

We spoke with Gayla Kidd, the Executive Director of Huntsville Assistance Program. She says, “We do so much more besides just pay your bill for you. We do quite a bit of investigation as to what is happening in your life and how can we better help you to not have you have to come back again any time real soon. We can help you find a job.”

They say there’s always been a need for bill assistance. The group is one of few in the valley that actually help people pay their mortgages. Kidd adds, “Our feeling is that if you have worked to be able to get a mortgage, then we want to help you keep that mortgage. So, we’re seeing people that would never have come to us.”

Kidd says, “We have been in business here for 20 years. And we’ve never seen a slump. So, to think that we’ll see a slump after the pandemic picks up and moves on-- I don’t think it will.”

Whether it's with food or bill assistance, HAP has a long list of people to help, with about 50,000 names in their directory. Although the organization isn’t an emergency assistance group-- people in desperate situations have been calling.  Kim Houser, Director of HAP says, “People are calling and they are in crisis situations or an emergency situation. They say they’re about to be evicted or have their utilities cut off and we are not an emergency agency.”

We met with Huntsville Utilities to see what people can do if they find themselves falling behind on their utility bill payments. Joe Gehrdes says, "You should always pick up your phone to call your utility. Huntsville Utility is no exception. Because, we’ll do whatever we can to work with you through that.” 

On December 26, around 12 million people are expected to lose federal unemployment assistance, unless Congress can agree on a new stimulus deal in the next few weeks. This is according to a new report from The Century Foundation. 

We asked Gehrdes if Huntsville Utilities has a plan in place. He says, “Through this situation, we have learned to expect the unexpected. We are talking about over a month from now. So, in terms of people who are worried about federal aid, they have time to make those decisions. We have not made a decision before then that I’m aware of. We have not discussed doing that.”

Huntsville Utilities does have funds set aside for people who lost their jobs during the pandemic. But, that’s in partnership with the Salvation Army.

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