Utility customers "rounding up" to help others - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Utility customers "rounding up" to help others

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As the cooler-than-normal July in the Tennessee Valley gives way to 90 degree temperatures in August, many residents of Bradley County receive help keeping the air conditioning running. It's done through Project Round-Up from Cleveland Utilities.

"Say for example, if your bill is $50.80 for the month, we would round it up to $51.00," explains Ken Webb, Senior Vice President and CFO. Round-ups of up to 99 cents are possible.

The extra money goes to local organizations that help people pay their bills in rough times.

"Loss of a job or an unexpected medical expense that they may need some assistance to get over that bump in the road," says Webb.

So far hundreds have been able to the keep their lights and air conditioning on. A few dozen families have received help paying rent or buying food.

On average, the round-up is just a little more than 50 cents per bill each month, around $6 a year per donor. It doesn't sound like much, but Webb had the following motto in mind when the idea came up.

"If everybody does a little, nobody has to do a lot," states Webb.

Anyone can opt out of donating but so far only 15% have asked to do that. Almost 33,000 customers are rounding up their bills, adding up to more than $100,000 so far. While Webb realizes other utility companies have similar programs, he's excited about Round-Up so far.

"We estimated that there would probably be $100,000 a year that would be generated from it. So we've already exceeded that in the first six and a half months," says Webb.

This is music to the ears of Lisa Mantooth at the United Way of Bradley County. Their partner program, Neighbors In Need, now gets needed extra dollars.

"100% of those funds that are donated by customers go back to into the community for utilities or rent assistance," explains Mantooth. No administrative costs are deducted.

She's excited to see the checks arrive each month and realizes it couldn't be done without the generosity of the customers.

"We would like to thank the Cleveland Utility customers for continuing to support Project Round Up," says Mantooth graciously.

"They're the ones actually contributing the funds. That's what makes it successful," adds Webb.

Those in Bradley County wishing to receive assistance through Project Round-Up have to go through an application and approval process.

You may even qualify if you use a utility provider other than Cleveland Utilities. For more information or to begin rounding up your bill to help out, call or visit the Cleveland Utilities office.

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