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Chattanooga utilities are suspending cutoffs and the Federal Housing Administration has stopped mortgage foreclosures.

Uncle Sam is giving taxpayers until July 15 to file their taxes and banks and credit card companies are being urged to give relief to customers hit by the coronavirus as they have done in natural disasters.

The unprecedented COVID-19 is likely to cut the jobs or incomes of many, if not most, of Chattanooga's households as restaurants, retailers and non-essential businesses are forced to close and lay off workers and customer demand and stock prices drop in response to an anticipated economic recession. A survey released Monday by the online web site WalletHub found that 67 million Americans expect they may not be able to pay their credit card bills.

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ During the EPB Green Expo, at Miller Plaza's Waterhouse Pavilion, it was announced that the EPB building will be one of the first LEED Gold buildings in Chattanooga. The Expo took place on November 8, 2019.
 

"Their struggles could easily ripple through the economy if left unaddressed, especially considering the more than $1 trillion in credit card debt currently owed by U.S. consumers," said WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou. "Credit card companies should give relief to affected customers, just like they've done during major natural disasters in recent years."

In response, the federal government has suspended foreclosures and eviction actions for those with government-backed loans and reverse mortgages for 60 days until officials hope people can return to work and begin getting paychecks again.

"It's really all about helping our people, recognizing that they are being severely impacted from the coronavirus," Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said over the weekend.

Last week, President Trump also pushed back the deadine for filing federal income taxes to July 15 which Trump said "hopefully people wil lbe getting back to their lives."

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File AP photo by Charlie Neibergall / Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of HUD

Carson and other officials for local creditors and utilities stressed that people unable to pay their bills on time should contact their lenders or those sending the bill to arrange how the debt will be paid.

EPB, Chattanooga Gas and Tennessee American Water all announced last week they will suspend any cutoffs of their power or water services indefinitely while the virus limits most economic activity.

"If people have an EPB bill due that they cannot pay, whether it is electric or fiber, we are asking them to contact us so that we can work with them individually to make appropriate arrangements," EPB spokesman J. Ed. Marston said. "We have an established practice of working very closely with our customers even in normal times so we've been able to reduce our uncollected debt because we are very willing to work with people."

Chattanooga Gas Company also has temporarily suspended service disconnections until April 13 and the suspension will apply to both residential and commercial customers

"We understand that now, more than ever, our services play a critical role in our communities," said Bryan Batson, president of Chattanooga Gas. "We stand with the Tennessee Public Utility Commission in our commitment to ensuring that every family and company in our community has the fuel they need to continue heating their homes, cooking their food, taking warm showers and running their businesses."

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File photo / J. Ed. Marston is vice president of communications for EPB

At Chattanooga's biggest water utility, Tennessee American Water, the company said it will not cut off those whose bills are delinquent and will restore service to previously shut-off customers, if a customer's service has been turned off prior to March 12.

On Monday, the Chattanooga Housing Authority also announced the temporary waiving of online rent payment fees. CHA is hoping to encourage residents to pay their rent online and refrain from visiting the main office amid concerns surrounding the spread of coronavirus.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

Find out more

To find out about other assistance, those unable to pay their bills are encouraged to contact:

* United Way: Dial 211 for Tennessee’s United Way Human Services hotline. United Way personnel are trained to help customers and can provide phone numbers and addresses of the most convenient places to seek assistance.

* Credit Counseling: If you or someone you know is having trouble paying bills, reach out to ClearPoint, a national, nonprofit credit counseling agency at 800-251-2227 (866-559-8198 for Spanish) or visit ClearPoint’s website.

* For CHA residents: Residents whose payment is not already established through auto-pay can now pay their rent online using a computer, cell phone, or tablet fee-free at www.chahousing.org/pay. Residents can call their site manager to get their account number to start using the online payment system.

 

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