CLEVELAND, TN ( WRCB) - It could be a chilly weekend especially for people who can't pay the power bill in Bradley County. Cleveland Utilities is seeing more and more people who don't pay their utility bills. Now they have an idea to help more of them keep the lights and heat on.
4,229 Cleveland Residents have gotten their power shut off so far this year for not paying. Cleveland Utilities says people aren't giving to their donation program much anymore, but they've got a new plan to cut down on their disconnects and help thousands of struggling families.
"We are struggling ourselves," Cleveland residents Ed and Harmony Bevier said.
The new parents are cutting corners and budgeting every cent they get. "Leaning on God's provisions. That's how we're making it," Ed said.
Ed is unemployed and says between high food and gas prices, their more than $100 utility bill is a major source of strain. With colder weather expected this weekend, they dread paying for heat.
"If it gets below 60 degrees, we have to kick on the heater. We're trying to do the best we can at not running the heater right now to keep the costs down," Ed Bevier said.
"Every day we see people struggling to pay their bills," Cleveland Utilities CEO Tom Wheeler said.
Cleveland Utilities hopes to help families like the Beviers by starting Project Roundup where customers' bills are rounded up to the next dollar. That extra change goes to the United Way of Bradley County, which gives it to families with disconnect notices.
"Rather than just shutting off utilities, it gives a tool to where we can offer help," Wheeler said.
Starting out, all customers will see your bill rounded to the next dollar, but you can opt out if you don't want it. Still, they think they'll be able to get $80,000 to $100,000 in the first year of the program.
"You can only imagine it will double the number if participants in the program. We're seeing an increase in need so it's a great time right now for those in need to have somebody reaching out to help," United Way of Bradley County President Matt Ryerson said.
"Any assistance is greatly appreciated and it does help. It does," Harmony Bevier said.
Cleveland Utilities hopes to start Project Roundup by mid-November. Again, all bills will be rounded up. You have to notify them if you do not want it rounded up and they'll refund you.