Wake County program pays past-due bills for COVID-19 impacted residents, organization helping them stay cool

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Volunteers at the Helping Hand Mission spent Monday afternoon loading on vehicle after the next with fans to deliver to people struggling to keep cool.

“You’re hot. You’re sweaty. You’re tired. You’ve already been overwhelmed. You don’t have a job. It’s too much going on,” said Sylvia Wiggins, director at Helping Hand.

Churches and individuals in the community donated the fans to those in need.

“It’s the little things like fans and air conditioners that really, really make a person kind of calm down just a little bit,” said Wiggins.

Supplying these fans is just one of the things Wiggins and her organization are doing to help people during the pandemic. She’s also given out food and learning resources for children.

Helping Hand Mission is open weekdays until 9 p.m. for anyone who is need of services, a fan or air conditioner to keep the cool. They are located at 623 Rock Quarry Road in Raleigh.

The pandemic is increasing the organization’s efforts compared to past years.

“It’s overwhelming, almost double the amount because of what’s going on,” said Wiggins.

People will need power to keep these fans running. Keeping up with power bills has been an issue for folks around the county.

“The pain and stress of the virus are very real and we see it in so many ways,” said Wake County commissioner Greg Ford during the announcement of the new program WakeHELPS.

Commissioner Ford said 10,000 customers in Raleigh owe at least $125 in past due water bills.

He says close to 13,000 Duke Energy customers owe a total of $5.1 million in electric.

The WakeHELPS program was created to help “local residents keep the lights on, the water running and other utility services active,” according to a news release.

The program will offer up to $500 per household to pay past-due bills for electricity, water, wastewater, natural gas, and solid waste services.

RELATED: Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

WakeHELPS was created using $5 million in federal funds from the CARES Act. Commissioner Ford said the program will help at least 10,000 families pay back what they owe to utility providers.

“With protections against utility shutoffs beginning to expire, Wake County is stepping up to help families who can’t make ends meet during this pandemic,” Chairman Greg Ford said in the release. “No one should have to go without water at a time when handwashing is so critically important, and no one should have to go without air conditioning when the heat index is in the triple digits.”

To qualify for the program, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Live in Wake County
  • Be able to demonstrate they have suffered financially from COVID-19 and
  • Provide copies of past-due utility bills from March 1, 2020, or later

Residents will also have to meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2020 low-moderate income limits for the region Wake County is in. The maximum earnings for a single person is $39,540 and $56,460 for a family of four, according to the release.

WakeHELPS is not meant to cover the cost of internet or phone service and also does not cover special fees, assessments, or any utility fines or penalties that have been assessed for improper use.

You can complete an application online or you can pick one up and drop it off in-person at either the Swinburne Building at 220 Swinburne St. in Raleigh or at Eastern Regional Center at 1002 Dogwood Drive in Zebulon.

To learn more about the program and apply, click here or call (919) 212-0476.

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