Finding utility help during the pandemic

Posted at 12:04 PM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 13:04:33-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Being a homeowner is great, but when you lose your job, you’re dealing with a pandemic, trying to feed 3 kids and the bills don't stop, it's a trying situation that can get anyone down.

Rhonda Tabler was able to keep her home due to assistance.

"I was scared, petrified, as to what was going to happen. I thought I was going to lose my house, I have no utilities to provide for my kids, it was a struggle,” Tabler said.

The pandemic closed many businesses, putting lots of people out of work and jobs nearly impossible to find.

"I was struggling to pay my bills, especially MUD and OPPD. I was looking everywhere to pay rent, let alone my bills. I called many charities," Tabler said.

Luckily for Tabler, she was able to apply and get approved for the dollar energy fund.

"We do not want our customers to have to decide between gas, water, electricity, or putting food on their table," said Megan Murray, customer service manager with MUD.

MUD and OPPD spokespeople said they’ve seen a 38% increase in people needing assistance since the pandemic began.

"The dollar energy fund helped tremendously. They paid at least 1,500 on each of my utilities and it helped me save my home, for my children,” said Tabler.

A cause that these utility companies say is them just being good community partners.

"At OPPD, our core value is to better the community. We take pride in giving back. Our employee base is one of the largest donors to the program because they believe in the mission of the OPPD program. This is not something we have to do, it is something we believe is a necessity to do,” said Britton Gabel, OPPD Senior Product Specialist.

"I would not be here today without that cause,” said Tabler.

The utility assistance program helps about 750 customers per year and the energy assistance program assists more than 1,000 per year.

There are some ways everyone in the community can help out.

The 14th annual Heat the Streets Walk for Warmth will be virtual this year.

Registration is now open.

The virtual 1K walk or 5K run takes place on March 6.

You can participate virtually indoors, outdoors, on local trails or even treadmills.

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