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Local family impacted by government shutdown struggles to find companies to work with them on bills

Posted at 4:02 PM, Jan 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-15 20:11:46-05

A Riverview family is starting to feel the burden of the government shutdown as the sole income of their family is through the United States Coast Guard.

ABC Action News spoke to Ginny Palm, a Coast Guard spouse, about the growing number of bills, and how unresponsive major companies have been towards their family.

Palm says her husband has served his country proud for 13 years as a member of the United States Coast Guard. "He's done some pretty amazing things in his career," she said.

As the shutdown enters day 25 for federal employees, Palm said they've started making calls to companies like Spectrum, TECO, and their rental company about not being able to pay bills on time.

Palm said there's car insurance, car payments, her husband's 45 minute commute to the Coast Guard station, as well as children's costs from paying for kids lunches and even field trips.

Their fear is their electric bill and rental company not working with them. "My husband had originally called, and said there was nothing that can be done," said Palm.

ABC Action News reached out to TECO and were told that they would take care of this situation.

Palm said TECO apologized, and thanked her husband for his service. "They sent out an apology to my husband and called him, and let him know we’d have a 30 day grace period," she said.

A spokesperson for TECO said in an email that these are some ways government employees can reach out for help:

Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas are happy to work with our customers who are affected by the government shutdown. We understand their difficulties, and we are:

  • Providing payment extensions.
  • Waiving late fees.
  • Sending folks for utility-payment assistance through our Share program, as appropriate.
  • Referring folks to appropriate social services for assistance with other issues, such as housing or food.
  • Staffing on-site assistance fairs (For example, at Tampa International Airport).

Customers will need to provide a copy of their federal ID as verification.

Palm said an agent with their rental leasing company, Property Frameworks, told them they have until February 1 to make payment, otherwise they face eviction.

"From what we’ve been told they have no problem evicting us as soon as they can," she said.

ABC Action News reached out to their rental company and they're in direct contact with the Palm family.

They provided a statement by email:

“Recently, we have been made aware of tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to the government shutdown. While we cannot guarantee any outcome, we are compassionate to the plight of individuals impacted by the government shutdown and will make every effort to communicate with an impacted tenant’s landlord to discuss their circumstances and seek a mutually agreeable solution.” – Property Frameworks

Additionally, Property Frameworks is in the process of incorporating the following message into all automated outgoing late rent notices:

“Recently, Property Frameworks has been made aware of tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to the government shutdown. If you are an employee of the Federal Government and a tenant of a property managed by Property Frameworks, and are unable to pay your rent due to the government shutdown, please notify us at your earliest convenience and we will contact your Landlord to discuss your circumstances. It is important to note that if you have failed to pay your rent, you will still receive automated notices concerning the failure to pay rent. While Property Frameworks cannot guaranty any outcome, we are compassionate to the plight of individuals impacted by the government shutdown and will make every effort to communicate with your Landlord to discuss your circumstances and seek a mutually agreeable solution.”

ABC Action News has been reaching out to other companies and will provide a list and response here:

  • Pinellas County School District:

The Pinellas County School District is offering parents, who are government workers, help when it comes to paying for those school lunches.

  • Hillsborough County Utilities:

Hillsborough County Public Utilities customers who have been affected by the federal government shutdown and need to talk to us about their Public Utility bills can call the customer support line at 813-272-6680, press 5 for residential, then press 3 for credit and collections to be connected to one of our customer care technicians. We will need verification of federal government employment. We do not want to turn off anyone’s utilities, so please call soon if you are having trouble.

· Duke Energy Florida

“While the government shutdown is a very visible issue now, we recognize that unforeseen hardships can happen to anyone at any time,” said Lesley Quick, Duke Energy’s vice president of revenue services. “To assist our customers who are having difficulties paying their bills, we have long offered programs and assistance agencies to help.

Billing / Payment Assistance Programs

For customers who are unable to commit to specific dates for payments, Duke Energy partners with local assistance agencies across our service areas, who distribute funds to individuals in need. Each state has specific programs and eligibility requirements. See the links below for what’s available in Florida:

o Energy Neighbor Fund

o Bill Extender

o Partnership Agencies

Budget Billing / Equal Payment Plans

Customers who have more than 12 months of usage history at their current residence may qualify for one of our billing and payment plans that gives customers the option of levelized monthly payments.

These billing plans are ideal for customers who are unable to pay a large bill now, but can afford to pay the average amount. Please click here to enroll and learn more.

  • Verizon: As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues, we want you to know that Verizon will have your back. We are waiving late fees and agent assist fees for federal government employees directly impacted for the duration of the shutdown.

We appreciate everything you do and we'll continue to do what we can to help you stay connected.

You can utilize any of our self-service tools or speak with one of our financial services representatives for further assistance. For support with wireless, call 1-866-266-1445. For assistance with residential home service, call 1-800-VERIZON.