Some Utilities, Banks Extending Financial Help To Government Employees During Shutdown

Jan 16, 2019

Some utilities and banks that service western Pennsylvania are offering financial assistance programs to customers impacted by the partial federal government shutdown.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is offering federal employees a payment plan for bills and waiving any late fees that may be incurred during the shutdown, according to spokesperson Will Pickering. Employees will have to prove to PWSA's customer service that they work for the federal government, which they can do by providing a recent paystub to the authority's customer service department, either through a photo or in person. 

Pickering said he's not aware of if anyone has taken advantage of this so far. 

"Like probably everyone, we hope that this comes to a resolution shortly," he said. "But we're going to work with people for as long as we can, and hopefully this issue is resolved shortly." 

Jerry Lucci, a spokesperson for Duquesne Light, said the utility's payment arrangements and budget billing programs could be helpful for federal employees impacted by the shutdown. A payment arrangement allows customers to pay an unpaid balance in installments based on factors including balance, income and previous payment history. Budget billing helps level out payments that vary month-to-month due to things like weather.

FirstEnergy Spokesperson Jeffrey Straight said the utility's has existing assistance programs could help customers impacted by the federal government shutdown. Straight said customers need to call FirstEnergy customer service to find out if they're eligible.

"We'd like those customers to know that we encourage them to be proactive, and to give us a call before their bill is due so we can work with them," he said.

A spokesperson for Columbia Gas said customers affected by the shutdown should call their customer service line to find out if they're eligible for payment assistance.

PNC Bank spokesperson Marcey Zwiebel said the bank is open to working with customers who are experiencing financial issues as a result of the shutdown.

"We continue to encourage impacted customers to contact us so we can work with them based on their unique situation and needs," Zwiebel wrote in an email. "PNC is prepared to waive monthly service fees and other appropriate actions for government employees."

Zwiebel said PNC also has different methods of financing that could help customers meet short-term financial needs.

Dollar Bank's Senior Vice President of Marketing Joseph Smith said customers who are unable to pay a loan can set up a loan forbearance, allowing them to temporarily stop making payments. The negotiable period of time for this could be up to 90 days. 

Smith said a dozen federal employees have taken advantage of this so far.

"Our window that we're looking at is 90 days," he said. "God forbid it should go longer than that."

After 90 days, Smith said Dollar Bank will be as accomodating as they can. 

WESA's Sabrina Bodon and Mick Stinelli helped report this story.