Tulsa County makes CARES Act funds available for past-due utility bills

(Tulsa World) — One of Tulsa County’s final distributions of federal CARES Act funding is going to assist people who have fallen behind on their utility bills because of COVID-19.

County commissioners earlier this month approved $3.5 million for a utility relief program proposed by Allied Communities of Tulsa Inspiring Our Neighborhoods, or ACTION. The organization works with churches and other nonprofits to address problems in the community.

ACTION’s Bob Moody said that after the organization advocated for the county to establish a rental assistance program using CARES Act funds, a utility assistance program seemed like a natural extension.

“Because ACTION is a group that is working on tenant lease issues, we are aware that there are tenants and renters who are having difficulty with their utility payments,” Moody said. “So it seemed logical to say, ‘OK, the county still has money, let’s see if they are willing to make it available for utility assistance.’”

ACTION is working with several nonprofit organizations to get the word out. It has also provided fliers to local food banks for them to distribute to their clients.

Terry Simonson, director of government affairs for the county, said the program covers past due payments for electricity, gas, or propane services. Applicants must reside in Tulsa County and live in a rental home or apartment.

“What we are finding is, certainly there are folks who have lost (their entire) income, but some have lost part of their income,” Simonson said. “So now they are in the real bind: What do I pay? Maybe they pay their rent and they pay their utilities, but they don’t have money for food? Or they pay for their food, and they don’t have money for their utilities.”

Read more in the Tulsa World.