WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – On Thursday, Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown introduced a new “Emergency Utility Assistance Program” for residents within the city that are struggling to pay their utility bills due to financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are very excited about this program. It’s something that we wanted to do to help the people that need help, that have been adversely affected but are also in the income level that really need help from the city,” Mayor Brown said.
Mayor Brown says the city put together a plan with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, allotting a total of $100,000 to the needs-based program. Eligible recipients can receive up to $1,200 in the form of a grant paid directly to the utility company identified on the application.
“Wintertime, heating bills get outrageous, so a $1,200 payment to help them pay their utility bills for the heat is going to be a wonderful windfall for them,” Mayor Brown said.
Joyce Zaykowski, Director of the Office of Economic and Community Development for the City of Wilkes-Barre says in order to qualify, your annual income must fall below a given level, depending on the number of people in your household. You will also need the financial information for everyone in your home, and total household income must be below 80 percent of the median income.
“Once the pre-application is approved, we will go ahead and go over the full application which will require some financial proof and utility bills,” Zaykowski said.
Pre-applications are available to those who occupy a home (rented or owned) in the City of Wilkes-Barre, and are responsible for the utility bill, who has experienced a 30 percent or greater reduction in total household income, as well as any residents who are on a fixed income and can demonstrate an increase in daily living expenses due to preparing for, preventing, or responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now this is a way that we can help residents that are in need of help from the city also,” Mayor Brown said.
“Our hope is that it will alleviate the stress by catching you up on that bill, you can use the money somewhere else,” Zaykowski said.
For more information, contact the City of Wilkes-Barre’s Office of Economic & Community Development at 570-208-4132. Information and pre-applications can be found on the city’s website, including procedures and commonly asked questions.