To help cope with record-high electricity bills this summer for many households, EPB and the Tennessee Valley Authority are giving back a portion of what is being paid to them in utility fees to fund their biggest contribution yet to a fund established to aid Chattanoogans hard hit by the pandemic and its aftermath.
Using matching funds provided by TVA through its Community Care Fund established three years ago, EPB announced Monday it will provide $300,000 to the United Way of Greater Chattanooga's Bridge Fund for utility and rent assistance.
"As the cost of essentials remains high, people already living paycheck to paycheck are squeezed even tighter to meet their monthly obligations," EPB President David Wade said in a statement Monday. "Our neighbors continue to need help, and we're proud to work with TVA and the United Way to support them through the Bridge Fund."
TVA and EPB have kept their base rates unchanged since 2019, but higher fuel cost adjustments imposed on utility bills by TVA to cover the rising costs of natural gas and coal -- combined with hotter temperatures this summer -- have pushed up EPB electricity bills in recent months for many households by more than 30% to a record high. According to a Bankrate survey, more than half of Americans are not prepared to cover three months of expenses in such an emergency and one out of four homes has no emergency fund.
United Way's Bridge Fund provides direct support for those who find themselves in immediate need of food, health services, transportation, crisis relief, housing, utility payments, or childcare.
"Though we hoped for economic recovery to gain momentum beyond the pandemic, new forces continue to make it difficult for some to make ends meet," Chattanooga United Way President Lesley Scearce said in an announcement of the new grant on Monday. "Confronting these challenges would not be possible without the support of our community partners."
Since TVA created the Community Care Fund in 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, EPB and TVA have provided a total of $720,000 to the United Way Bridge Fund. Additionally, EPB employees donated $20,000 in personal contributions to the fund.
Across its 7-state region, TVA's Community Care Fund has supported 668 charities with a total of $15.6 million in assistance since the spring of 2020. TVA also extended an additional $5 million in matching funds through fiscal year 2022.
"We are proud to partner with EPB and the United Way to support our friends and neighbors," TVA President Jeff Lyash said in a statement Monday. "The United Way Bridge Fund provides direct support and resources to those who need it most."
Formerly known as Restore Hope, United Way of Greater Chattanooga created the Bridge Fund in 2020 to support the needs of those directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the fund has raised a total of $1.3 million to assist 1,208 households and 14 nonprofit agencies, Scearce said.
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