High Point woman receives automated letter to shut off utilities

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HIGH POINT, N.C. — Stress, anxiety and uncertainty are building as people in the Piedmont enter week four of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bills are due, and many people are without work, wondering how they’ll be able to manage.

But those final notices are still being sent out.

Mary Sanders received one of those letters from the City of High Point, written in bright red letters.

“It said if we didn’t pay by that date, my service would be disconnected,” Sanders said. “I was shocked. Everything is uncertain now. I don’t go outside. We don’t go to the grocery store. We don’t go anywhere. There’s no money to even buy groceries with right now.”

Sanders received Social Security money that helps pay the bills for her, her daughter and her two grandchildren.

Her daughter lost her job a couple of weeks ago because of the coronavirus crisis

“We’re waiting for the unemployment benefits to come in for my daughter,” Sanders said. “We don’t have money right now. There’s no money at all.”

She contacted FOX8 for help.

“With all of the worries already, and we can’t go outside. It’s stressful to get a letter knowing next week you’re going to be shut off,” Sanders said.

But she won’t be.

“We’re not cutting utility services,” said Bob Martin, the Customer Service Director for the City of High Point.

He says the letter Sanders got is an automated reminder.

“The unfortunate part of that is the language on it is still the same language,” Martin said. “I’m unable to change that currently because it’s a third party software provider. We’re going to continue to work with our customers and try to keep them safe.”

That news came as a relief to Sanders.

But now she wants other people to know what to expect, so they don’t unnecessarily worry as she did.

“[High Point] should send out a notice saying, ‘okay this is what it is. It’s just a letter generated,’ and let them know everything is going to be okay,” Sanders said. “I don’t want anyone to feel the way I felt, being stressed out and shocked that my lights can go off in the next week.”

Martin tells FOX8 there is an announcement indicating service will not be cut off on the utilities website.

But Sanders says for people like her who don’t have internet access, it’s not enough.

City officials say they plan to follow the governor’s plan for these utilities and are prepared to extend that time frame if needed.

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