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Neighbor steps in to help cleveland veteran pay bills

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“That is the one Christmas card I bought this yr,” mentioned Terrance Dewalt, as he opened the present from a stranger.

CLEVELAND — It is estimated that nationwide, households are 40 billion {dollars} behind in utility payments – pushed largely to revenue loss brought on by COVID-19.

For some Clevelanders, simply staying heat or holding the water working is a day by day problem.

In a 3News collaboration, investigator Rachel Polansky reveals the hardships many are going through to maintain the lights on.

We lately launched you to Terrance Dewalt, a military veteran and Cleveland resident.

“What’s in my hand is payments which are certainly on the point of shut off,” Dewalt mentioned, as he regarded via his utility payments.

“What’s your greatest concern?” 3News investigator Rachel Polansky requested.

“That I’d freeze to demise as a result of they’re gonna minimize my energy,” mentioned Dewalt.

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Whereas Terrance Dewalt by no means had COVID-19, he felt simply as a lot a sufferer of the pandemic, discovering himself out of labor and out of solutions.

“I’ve no revenue coming in and I am not getting any assist from any of those companies,” mentioned Dewalt.

Terrance’s story struck a chord with lots of our 3News viewers, together with Lake County veteran, Don Buckholz, who needed at hand ship a present to Terrance.

“I needed to fulfill you and present some appreciation,” Buckholz instructed Dewalt. “I do know you have been fighting payments so I bought somewhat non-perishable meals package deal and a present for you.”

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After Terrance unwrapped his present, he started opening his card.

“That is the one Christmas card I bought this yr,” mentioned Dewalt.

That’s when he found one other present, $200 {dollars} to place towards his utility payments.

“I extremely recognize it, very a lot,” mentioned Dewalt, as he bought up and shook Buckholz hand and gave him a hug.

One other 3News viewer additionally reached out to Polansky who needed to assist pay Dewalt’s payments. She requested to stay nameless however she despatched one other $300 to cowl his electrical invoice.

Whereas it is a touching story and one we’re so glad to share – it would not take away from the bigger concern, that so lots of our neighbors are nonetheless struggling to pay their utility payments.

“You need to do it on-line and nobody solutions their telephones,” mentioned Katrina Tunkara, Cleveland resident.

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Katrina Tunkara tells 3News she’s turned to neighborhood and state companies for assist – as have her pals —  and nobody’s had success.

“It makes me really feel unhappy as a result of most individuals are out of labor or unemployed, they usually have to decide on between paying lease or placing meals on the desk,” mentioned Tunkara.

These persons are not alone.

For Cleveland’s water division, nearly 90,000 prospects (of about 1.four million) have been behind on funds as of Nov. 9; for Cleveland Public Energy, about 28,500 prospects (of about 80,000) had a stability “greater than 30 days previous,” based on public data supplied by the town.

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The common quantity owed was $481 for water prospects, in contrast with $281.39 for Cleveland Public Energy. All of those numbers have been as of Nov. 9; it’s not clear how they’ve modified since then.

Whereas there are help applications on the market, navigating these techniques is commonly simpler mentioned than accomplished.

“One of many greatest limitations is simply with the ability to get in for an appointment, Molly Black, neighborhood navigation coach and coach for United Manner of Higher Cleveland’s 211 helpline, instructed us. “As you may think about, particularly proper now, there’s only a complete lot of want.”

In April, the 211 helpline acquired 1,000 requires help with gasoline, electrical or water payments. By September, these calls had greater than doubled.

“You’ve bought 1000’s of individuals which are calling the identical quantity on the identical time to get an appointment scheduled, and there are solely a restricted variety of appointments accessible,” Black defined.

Over in Lorain County, neighborhood service advocates are reporting the identical struggles, particularly from people who find themselves new to the system.

“Demand this time of yr is all the time excessive, however this yr, it is rather like nothing we have ever seen earlier than,” Jackie Boehnlein, CEO of the Lorain County Group Motion Company, mentioned.

Backside line, this can be a complicated system that requires endurance and persistence.

That’s why the Northeast Ohio Options Journalism Collaborative created this information that outlines particular applications and funds plans which are accessible for you. Learn extra beneath:

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This story is sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Options Journalism Collaborative, which consists of 20-plus Northeast Ohio information shops together with WKYC 3News. Reporters Rachel Dissell and Conor Morris contributed to this story.

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