Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 7, 2012

TPWA customers complain about penalties on bills

TAHLEQUAH — A number of Tahlequah Public Works Authority customers who receive outside assistance with their bills are complaining they’ve been hit with penalties by the local utility provider.  

TPWA is a pilot tester for programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and monies issued by the customer’s assisting agency is designated for either electric or gas. Recently, this aid may have been identified incorrectly during the billing process and created the interest penalty some customers may be seeing on their bills, said TPWA Office Manager Gail Dotson.

“As far as software as a pilot tester, there are going to be some problems that need to be worked out,” Dotson said. “This is the second the month, and we have found it’s not calculating the penalties correctly. We’ve met with the software provider, and they’ve helped us set up how to calculate the penalties. In the meantime, we’re going through the accounts to identify any mistakes to correct those accounts.”

Dotson said the issuing agency, which could be the Department of Human Services or an American Indian tribe like the Cherokee Nation, sends the assistance payment directly to TPWA, with the funds’ use specified. The customer is responsible for the remaining balance.

“It’s federal funding, so there are guidelines to go by in how it’s applied,” she said. “The payments we receive from DHS or the tribe can only be applied to the electric in the summertime. It doesn’t cover anything else that may be on their account. It only applies to the electric. The customer is responsible for the rest of the payment.”

Assistance payments made during summer months are used specifically for electrical energy, but the money may be designated for gas or electric service during winter months, Dotson said.

“Anyone who receives assistance and has questions can call us,” she said. “We’ll check their account. It depends on when the assistance was received, the billing date and the billing cycle.”

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