Update, 5 p.m. Aug. 27: Ephrata Borough disconnected 31 electric customers and eight water customers on Thursday, Business Office Manager Tracy Roseberry said.
As of Thursday afternoon, 15 electric customers remained disconnected, along with nine customers who were shut off last Thursday, she said. She did not have further information on the status of the water shutoffs.
Update, 10:30 a.m. Aug. 31: As of the end of the day Friday, five electric customers and three water customers remained shut off, Roseberry said.
Ephrata Borough is scheduled to move forward today with its second round of service shutoffs to utility customers who are behind on their payments.
As of Wednesday evening 62 accounts were due for shutoff, borough Business Office Manager Tracy Roseberry said.
Previous coverage: ‘People need help’: Ephrata resumes utility disconnections amid pandemic
The count will be finalized this morning, she said, and is expected to shrink as more people pay their bills and are taken off the list.
"My staff is making every attempt to work with the customers that contacted us and are scheduled for disconnection," she said.
Meanwhile, some additional help is being made available to customers who are unable to pay what they owe.
Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County, or CAP, began assisting homeowners this week, using federal grant funds, spokeswoman Kristy Aurand said.
It received $45,500 through the county, Aurand said. Most will go to grants to help households stop disconnections or help with reconnections. A portion will cover CAP's administrative expenses.
The maximum grant will be $600 per household, Aurand said. CAP expects to be able to help at least 60-some households, more if not all need the maximum amount.
Those in need may be referred by the borough or by Ephrata Area Social Services or the Northern Lancaster Hub. They can also apply directly to CAP. An email address, [email protected], has been set up specifically for the program, Aurand said.
CAP already had five referrals in process as of Wednesday, she said.
Joy Ashley is executive director of Ephrata Area Social Services. Last week she said the agency was doing its best, but did not have the resources to help more than a few of the residents at risk of shutoff.
She said she's grateful to CAP for stepping in. She and other nonprofit officials say still more assistance may be needed, given the number of accounts at risk of shutoff.
Besides helping with past-due bills, CAP will be able to help households with other issues affecting their finances, such as applying for unemployment and resolving delays.
Ephrata Borough Council voted in July to allow utility shutoffs to resume as of Aug. 1. The first round took place last Thursday; after today, one more round is scheduled Sept. 10.
Municipal utilities are not subject to the statewide shutoff moratorium enforced by the Public Utility Commission. Ephrata officials say if they did not resume enforcement now, by next spring many customers would be so far behind in their payments that they would never be able to catch up.
As of mid-July, utility customers owed the borough more than $250,000. The majority are electric customer; the borough also provides water, sewer and trash service.
The Public Utility Commission is considering lifting its own moratorium, potentially exposing millions of Pennsylvanians to shutoffs this fall. Gov. Tom Wolf has called for it to be extended; the commission is scheduled to discuss the issue today. (Update: The commission voted to postpone the decision.)