While the Alabama economy may not have returned to the record-setting levels it saw before coronavirus struck, unemployment levels have dropped in recent months. With the economy improving, Athens Utilities has decided to resume the disconnect of utilities due to non-payment.
According to Customer Accounts Manager Bill Vaughn, disconnects resumed Monday. Vaughn said the modified policy was amended and pushed back multiple times, but customers will now need to pay the amount due each month.
“Hopefully, people are back to work now,” said Holly Hollman, communications specialist for the City of Athens. “Several people have been making some (partial) payments to keep from getting too far behind. At some point (disconnects) had to start back, and Bill thought it had been long enough.”
Statistics from the Alabama Department of Labor show the unemployment rate in Limestone County has rebounded by several percentage points. The county unemployment rate was 2.9% in March but rose to 11.5% in April once jobs lost due to COVID-19 were reported.
Now, the number has gone back down to 5.7% in June, the latest reported month, with 2,413 residents listed as unemployed compared to 4,884 in April.
Hollman said Vaughn and Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks will discuss suspending disconnects once more if the economy were to be shut down again like it was in March. Anyone with questions about a bill or payment status can email email@example.com or call 256-233-8750.
Vaughn said those who need assistance with making payments can contact the Alabama Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at 256-851-9800.
Payments to Athens Utilities can be made via the following options:
• In person at customer accounts at 508 S. Jefferson St. from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays;
• Drive-thru at 508 S. Jefferson St., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays;
• Visiting athens-utilities.com to pay online. The company that provides this service does charge a fee;
• Mailing the bill stub with payment to City of Athens Utilities, P.O. Box 830200, Birmingham, AL 35283-0200;
• Placing the bill stub with payment in the night box at 508 S. Jefferson St.;
• Calling toll free 1-855-760-0921. The company that provides this service does charge a fee; and
According to Vaughn, utilities employees can no longer accept payments in the field.