For more information about Project Round Up, call Cleveland Utilities at 423-472-4521 or visit www.clevelandutilities.com.
CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland Utilities, in partnership with United Way of Bradley County, will roll out a new customer-funded community assistance program at the end of December.
If all goes as planned, Project Round Up will be initiated with the late December billing cycle, said Ken Webb, vice president of the financial division for Cleveland Utilities.
Customers' bills will be rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the difference will go to United Way for distribution to Neighbors in Need, a program administered by The Caring Place.
Though the program is voluntary, customers are automatically included unless they opt out. A flier describing the program will be included with the December bills.
"I think it has potential to do a lot of good in Cleveland," Webb said.
Project Round Up "is designed to assist area families facing difficulty paying their utility bills, as well as meeting housing and medical expenses, among other related needs," according to the Cleveland Utilities website.
The program is similar to those operated by Volunteer Energy Cooperative and other regional utilities, Cleveland Utilities officials said.
Most of the money must go toward utility needs -- Project Round Up can pay for electricity, heating fuel, sewer and water services, regardless of provider -- but up to 20 percent may be allocated to housing and medical expenses. Cable television and telephone service are not considered utilities under the program.
"Project Round Up, I think, is an exciting voluntary program that could have an amazing impact," Matt Ryerson, president and CEO of United Way of Bradley County, said in a recent meeting with the utility board. "For pennies on the dollar -- literally -- pennies on people's utility bills collectively can have a significant impact on some of the needs in this community."
It is estimated that participating customers will donate about $6 on average to Project Round Up over a year. The donations are tax deductible.
Officials believe the program could generate up to $100,000 annually if only half of Cleveland Utilities' 30,000 customers participate.