Utility offers helping hand
Beginning this month, South Shore residents will have a chance to lend a hand to their neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet.
The South Tahoe Public Utility District is mailing out notices in its April bills of the utility’s Helping Hands Outreach program, soliciting contributions to help pay the bills of residents who are temporarily struggling.
“As a public agency, the South Tahoe Public Utility District is not allowed to give free service,” said Dawn Forsythe, the district’s information officer. “So the board established the program to help ensure that no one in Tahoe lives without running water or sewer service.”
Modeled after similar programs by privately owned energy companies, the South Tahoe district had to design the charitable fund to rely solely upon donations from its customers and employees with a minimal cost to administer.
Mary Lou Mosbacher, a district director who spearheaded the program, said Helping Hands Outreach, or H2O, can answer a real need in the community.
“The beauty of this program is that all money donated will go to benefit a neighbor in need,” Mosbacher said. “Contributions will directly help Tahoe senior citizens facing extraordinary medical situations, families strapped by an unexpected emergency, or folks who, for any number of reasons, just need a helping hand to get back on their feet.”
The El Dorado County Department of Community Service, which administers other utility subsidy programs, will determine the eligibility of applicants, based on guidelines set by the utility district. Help will be provided on a one-time basis.
Once qualified, a customer’s utility bill will then be paid directly out of the Helping Hands fund.
Forsythe said creating the assistance program will preserve the privacy and respect of families in hardship situations.
“Until now, if someone was facing an imminent shut-off of their service, they were required to address the board of directors in a public meeting to plead their case,” she said.
The district will enact the program as soon as total contributions reach $500.
Customers who have received a shut-off notice and need assistance should apply to community services at 3368 Lake Tahoe Blvd., Suite 202.
For more information about the program, call the district at 544-6474, ext. 208.
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