Bartow ends grace period for overdue electric bills

Last month, as a result of soaring unemployment because of COVID-19, the city of Bartow gave residents who were having a hard time paying their electric bill a grace period. That grace period came to an end Monday.

“I think they can waive the fees. They got enough money. They ain’t hurting for the money,” resident Glenn Collier said about the city Monday.

But the city says it is not in a position to do that financially.

“It would create a real challenge for the city to continue to provide essential services that we provide to our residents,” said Bartow’s vice mayor, Scott Sjoblom.

So the city has come up with a three-pronged plan: Refer the person to a helping agency that may be able to pick up the tab, allow the resident to use their deposit to pay the bill, or develop a repayment plan.

Recently Lakeland announced that has one million dollars to help people pay their rent and utilities if they are in need.

Bartow, which is much smaller than Lakeland, says it just doesn’t have that kind of money available.

Monday night, Bartow commissioners plan to discuss another possible way to help residents pay their bill. The city might decide to reduce electric bills by $40 a month over the next three months to lighten the load.