ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Southwest Atlanta families reached out to CBS46 after Georgia Power shut off their power on Friday.

These families went to the Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority known as FACAA for help more than two weeks ago to avoid having their power cut off. 

President and CEO Dr. Joyce Dorsey says these working, low-income residents come to them in crisis and in need of help.

“The person comes to us, we take [their] application if they are about to be shut off, we make a pledge that last 14-30 days depending on [when] the system is set up,” Says Dr. Dorsey.

Dr. Dorsey tells CBS46 this has been happening since the process changed two years ago, allowing other glitches in the process such as giving these residents only 14 days with the pledge which is not helpful.

The FACAA says the families whose power was turned off last Friday should have never happened. Their applications were approved and they posted a pledge on the Georgia Power portal on January 16th, which was approved by Georgia Power. Then a check was mailed out on January 24th.

“It should have been paid. The check should have been received by Georgia Power, of course it goes to a PO Box, but after that it’s out of our hands. We have no control,” added Dr. Dorsey. 

In an email to CBS46, Georgia Power said:

“In 2018, Georgia Power and the Division of Family and Children Services changed the process for PrePay customers instituting a 14-day grace period from the time we receive a LIHEAP pledge. Previously, PrePay customers who received a pledge had to maintain positive dollars on their account to avoid an interruption of service. Now, the meter is kept in service, despite a negative balance and the customer is advised to continue making payments so they are not further behind once the check arrives.

Georgia Power has also worked hard to eliminate any lags in payment processing. In Feb. 2019, we launched new scanning and software tools that eliminate extra handling of payments from Community Action organizations. Now, if these payments are received via the postal service they are opened, scanned and processed the same day."

As for the $400 that was supposed to be credited to these families account, on Feb. 3 it was still not applied.

“It’s not the people, Georgia Power is holding the money, getting extra. Why you getting extra money when you already got the $400? It's games, they playing down there,” said Tangee Farley whose power was disconnected then temporarily reconnected.

Georgia Power refutes that suggestion, saying “We have yet to receive the assistance check from FACAA pledged back on Jan. 16, however, we have received and applied other checks from FACAA that were sent late last week.”

Here's what Georgia Power had to say about the concerns during an email exchange with CBS46:

How does GA power receive LIHEAP checks?

There are twenty Georgia Community Action Associations (GCAA) in the state of Georgia with 19 receiving and distributing federal funds through the LIHEAP program. The organizations can make a direct payment on behalf of the income-qualified customers through our Energy Assistance Portal (a special system set up in the past few years, improving our assistance efforts for customers) or by any of our other options, including mail. Most LIHEAP payments are still submitted to us by check and mailed in. These organizations may also provide Georgia Power a notification of intent to pay by making a pledge before sending the payments, which initiates the 14-day grace period on prepay accounts, as detailed below.

How has the process changed?

In 2018, Georgia Power and the Division of Family and Children Services changed the process for PrePay customers instituting a 14-day grace period from the time we receive a LIHEAP pledge. Previously, PrePay customers who received a pledge had to maintain positive dollars on their account to avoid an interruption of service. Now, the meter is kept in service, despite a negative balance and the customer is advised to continue making payments so they are not further behind once the check arrives.

Georgia Power has also worked hard to eliminate any lags in payment processing. In Feb. 2019, we launched new scanning and software tools that eliminate extra handling of payments from Community Action organizations. Now, if these payments are received via the postal service they are opened, scanned and processed the same day.

What can be done to make it more of an effective process?

We continue to work with the Georgia Community Action Associations involved to further enhance and streamline the process. We also work with customers to offer multiple rate options, energy audits and efficiency improvements and often are able to establish payment plans on a case-by-case basis.

We have yet to receive the assistance check from FACAA pledged back on Jan. 16 and reportedly sent eight days later on Jan. 24, however, we have received other checks from FACAA that were sent late last week. We will continue to work with the association to reach a solution.

Copyright 2019 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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