PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A merger between Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light has resulted in high utility bills for many in Northwest Florida. One nonprofit that helps with utility assistance says it’s preparing for a surge of calls next month as some can’t pay their bill.
United Ministries has already fielded a few phone calls from families who say their latest utility bill from Florida Power & Light (FPL) is through the roof and they need assistance. More calls are expected soon.
“To think about now, a standard bill that they know what it’s typically going to be and all of a sudden, it’s increasing, I can see where it can make it an incredibly stressful time for these families,” said Rev. Ashley Wilkinson Meyer. “One of the things we’re wondering is if in the next month or so we might to start seeing families calling because the crisis is not something outside their normal bill cycle, but it is that normal utility bill that all of a sudden has increased.”
FPL customers across Northwest Florida say they’re worried about their bills. Britney Lovelady is part of a Facebook group where customers concerned about their power bills have been expressing frustration with FPL.
“I was terrified to see my summer bills,” thought Lovelady after she saw her most recent utility bill. “My bill is almost $500 in the winter with gas heat and gas water. What’s my summer bill going to look like?”
United Ministries says those in need can reach out to them or call 211 for assistance.
“Our United Way of West Florida is a phenomenal organization, and they will get you those connections that you need,” Wilkinson Meyer said, noting several organizations in Northwest Florida can help.
FPL encourages customers to reach out to utility company for assistance as well. Sarah Gatewood, a spokeswoman for the company, said if customers reach out early enough, arrangements can be made.
“We know how challenging it can be to get a bill that’s higher than you expected,” Gatewood said. “We understand that our customers are challenged with that, and we really want to help so we ask everyone if you’re facing hardship, please call us so we can help. If you miss those deadlines for payments, it can be a tough situation. If you reach out to us in advance, we can usually come up with some other kind of arrangement or give addition extensions or time to pay. We never want to cut power off for anyone. Disconnection is the last resort.”
In a challenging time for many, those who can assist say they want people to know they are not alone.
“I would really encourage people to reach out at this time,” Wilkinson Meyer said. “Do not hesitate because our community wants to surround families with support.”