St. Charles creates utility bill program to help residents
St. Charles residents who are behind in their utility payments due to financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic now have a new option for paying their bills.
The city recently announced a nine-month program designed to give residents -- as long as they sign up by the end of November -- until August 2021 to repay their overdue amounts in installments.
"We'd like to see as many people sign up as we can because I think it helps everyone if we can keep those balances from getting too large," said St. Charles Finance Director Chris Minick. "We devised this program to help start paying down those delinquent balances while still respecting people's need to have utility service, especially during the winter months and the cold months."
For residents who sign up, the amount of their late balance as of the November billing period for electric, water and sewer service will be frozen. They'll be put on a program to pay one-ninth of the outstanding balance on their utility bills plus current charges each month through August of next year.
While some residents still may struggle with the payments, city officials believe this is a necessary step to start dealing with the mounting overdue balances.
Comparing October of 2019 to October of this year, Minick said the number of St. Charles residents who are past due by 60 days went up by 32 percent while the number of residents past due by 90 days increased by 52 percent. The total amount past due by at least 60 days is currently more than $400,000, which is an increase of more than $80,000 from 2019.
Despite the increasing number of delinquencies, though, the city is committed to not disconnecting residents from utility service. Minick said no disconnections have been made by the city since February, a policy that will continue through at least March 31 of next year.
"We respected the fact that there were likely to be people impacted either by reductions in their work or flat-out elimination of their job," Minick said. "We tried to respond and be as helpful as we could considering the circumstances."