Electricity cutoffs can resume this week in Kansas City, Kansas

A moratorium on disconnecting electricity expires today, March 31, and cutoffs may start on April 1 for Board of Public Utilities customers.

The BPU recently urged customers who have fallen behind on their electric bills to get in touch with the BPU billing or customer service office at 913-573-9190 before their electricity is cut off. There are several repayment plans available for customers, according to a BPU news release.

The BPU lobby is currently closed to in-person business because of COVID-19, and BPU offices will be closed for the spring holiday on Friday, April 2. Telephone 913-573-9190 is recommended to reach the customer service office.

The BPU also encouraged customers who need assistance in paying their bills to sign up with the Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance (KERA) program, that is run through the Kansas Housing Resources Corp. at the state level. Both tenant and landlord apply together for this program in a joint application. If approved, the landlord or service provider receive funds directly from KHRC.

Those eligible for this program include renters who were experiencing financial hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.

Eligible for the program are tenants who rent their home, tenants whose 2020 household income did not exceed 80 percent of the area’s median income, households where at least one member was experiencing documented financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, or at least one member of the household is uncertain of where they will stay or may become homeless without housing assistance.

For more information on the KERA program, visit https://kshousingcorp.org/emergency-rental-assistance/.

Assistance with utility bills also was a topic during a recent CARES Act funding update at a Unified Government Committee meeting on March 22.

Crystal Sprague, who led the CARES Act local committee, said that the federal aid from the CARES Act was eligible for spending through March 1. That program sent dollars to the local communities that then distributed them through charities to assist in COVID-19 hardships.

Sprague said another round of funding, the American Rescue Plan, did not send dollars to Wyandotte County organizations to distribute in programs designed by the community, in the same manner as the CARES Act.

Wyandotte County was estimated by the National Association of Counties to receive about $89 million through the American Rescue Plan in direct federal aid.

Some Wyandotte County residents will be eligible for assistance under the American Rescue Plan’s programs at the state level, according to Sprague.

One of these programs was KERA, she said, available through the state of Kansas. It covers rental and utility assistance.

The application is online and available to anyone who might need the services, she said.

Several community agencies are helping residents with this application process, as it is not easy, and it requires electronic applications, Sprague said. Several community agencies are working together with the Housing Authority on it to help residents, she added.

There are many steps required to prove applicants are not receiving funding from any other sources, and to show they are needy because of COVID-19 issues, she added.

The money is there, and she encouraged residents who need it to get online, apply or contact the United Way (telephone 2-1-1-) or Avenue of Life to see if they can help them fill out the applications.

Sprague said that through the Kansas eviction prevention program, funded through the state in the first round of federal assistance, there were 315 households in Wyandotte County that were found eligible for assistance. About $806,000 of rental and utility assistance came to local homes through the first round of funding in that program, she said.