coronavirus pandemic

FPL Power Shut-Offs Resume as Thousands of Floridians Struggle to Pay Bills

NBC Universal, Inc.

Florida Power and Light resumed disconnections on Oct. 1 - seven months after halting them due to Covid-19 - leaving thousands of residents without power.

"We have a big household and currently only my dad is working," said Miami resident Wendy Alfaro.

Alfaro is a college student trying to make ends meet in the middle of the pandemic. She's worried her FPL bill keeps adding up.

"I don't know how, but my bill is $130. It accumulated to $500 because I don't have the money to pay for it," said Alfaro.

FPL's Covid-19 customer impact data report shows more than 72,000 residential accounts were disconnected from service in October. During the pandemic, the power company made payment arrangements with more than 1 million customers.

"Disconnecting a customer for nonpayment is always the very last resort. We work one on one with our customers to see what assistance there is for them," said Marie Bertot, spokesperson for FPL.

No hot water, no AC, no internet -- that's been the reality for thousands who have fallen behind on their utility bills during the pandemic. NBC 6's Alyssa Hyman has one family's story -- and how they got help.

Non-profit organizations like Catalyst Miami are hearing from many residents struggling to pay utility bills and other bills.

"People who have never been in these circumstances that find themselves now struggling feel really uncomfortable talking about these things. That's something we've come across," said Mayra Cruz with Catalyst Miami.

Yulunda Hicks got a final notice in the mail last month that she needed to pay a $300 FPL bill. The notice said, “enclosed is a final notice before disonnection of service. It is very important that you make your payment immediately to avoid further action.” 

It was a bill she got for her new apartment in Cutler Bay. 

“I mean it’s a daily struggle,” said Hicks. “It’s basically like working from check to check.” 

She already works 40 hours a week doing security for the University of Miami. It’s a job she returned to during the pandemic but says somethings have changed and sometimes the paycheck doesn’t cut it. 

“It’s kind of like hard to even get part-time work because more people cutting than hiring,” said Hicks.

Help, however, is available. Miami-Dade and Broward have a Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). FPL is also offering 10% off to small business owners starting in January.

According to Annika Holder, Interim Director for the Miami-Dade County Community Action and Human Services Department, CAHSD has provided assistance to 8,122 households with more than $5.5 million in assistance since July.

Payments were made directly to the utility provider.

The LIHEAP Covid-19 crisis assistance provides eligible households with up to $2,000 within a 12-month period.

If you have a question about your FPL bill, or need help, you can call 1-800-226-3545.

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