JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville residents started losing utility service Friday when JEA began severing service to delinquent accounts. Since then, the city owned utility has unplugged more than 400 customers for nonpayment.
The disconnects started Friday – a process complicated, and in some cases caused, by the COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdowns are also happening against a backdrop of extreme temperatures and climate of violence.
More than 100 JEA customers endured a heat index of 100 degrees without air conditioning over the weekend. And while 79 were reconnected after making arrangements to get current with their debt, JEA disconnected an additional 300 homes and businesses Tuesday.
“It’s very hot,” City Councilmember Garrett Dennis said while sitting at an outdoor table. “It’s much more than a financial situation, it’s a health and safety issue. It’s a sanitary and safety issue without water and electricity.”
The city saw its 100th homicide this weekend, a grim mile marker that came months earlier than prior years.
Dennis said, between the financial and psychological strain of the pandemic, the loss of essential services is one more burden for some households. He said it’s no surprise his district is also seeing increased crime.
“I have the most [pending] disconnections, over 3,000 in my district, and the last three murders have been in my district, District 9.”
JEA spokesperson Gina Kyle said the utility is working to reduce both the number of delinquent accounts and the number of disconnections.
“Our goal is to provide as much opportunity as possible for those with delinquent accounts to reach us to pay their bills and, if necessary, make payment arrangements. Ideally, we wouldn’t have any disconnects,” she said.
The number of accounts subject to disconnection dropped in recent weeks from May estimates of 24,000 to about 13,000.
Kyle said no disconnects took place Monday “to provide another opportunity for customers with disconnect eligible accounts to contact us.”
There are payment options available to delinquent customers, Kyle said, as well as financial assistance.
“We are not processing disconnections for those eligible customers who applied for assistance from the City’s Utility Relief Fund,” Kyle said. “We have to give them enough time to receive their $200 pre-loaded debit card, which they will use as payment on their account.”
JEA urges any customers struggling to pay their bill to visit its website.