United Way receives overwhelming amount of applicants for utility assistance
BATON ROUGE- More than 8,000 people are waiting to see if they are getting help with their Entergy bill.
"It says that the demand for this kind of relief is high. We knew it. Entergy knew it. It also just speaks to how urgent this process, and very generous offer of support has been received," Capital Area United Way President & CEO, George Bell, said.
Capital Area United Way is partnering with Entergy to award $800,000 to people in the capital region. The program will grant $150 to at least 5,000 people.
The phone rang all day Wednesday at the Capital Area United Way. Caller after caller had issues with the Utility Assistance Program, meant to help with soaring Entergy bills. They launched the online application process at 9 a.m. Wednesday, but not without issues.
"I'm very proud of the way our team responded and made those, I call them game time adjustments, to better service the folks that were applying for these applications," Bell said.
The website crashed within minutes of the launch and other problems followed. Customers posted their issues on social media, including one user who says the application said she had the wrong birth date. Some applicants had problems with their zip codes or other information.
"We were able to do those corrections in real time as people were submitting the applications," Bell said.
Another thing that threw off applicants, the service status. Applicants had to choose between disconnected or soon to be. United Way later added another option for those who do not have a negative balance.
Bell says anyone could apply for assistance if they meet the requirements, even if they are not behind on their bills.
"It was never part of the criteria, it was just data we were collecting that they asked to collect on the application," Bell said.
Bell says Entergy plans to grant the money within 90 days. However, there is not a timeline as to when recipients will be notified. Case managers are reviewing applications now.
Entergy has more than $4 million for this program.
Anyone needing immediate help can call 211.
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