Morgantown City Council unanimously voted to coordinate with the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) on Tuesday to accommodate federal workers who are not receiving a paycheck due to the government shutdown.
Morgantown Utility Board, the city’s water and sewer service, held its regular board meeting Monday night, where it decided to allow furloughed government employees to not have to pay utility bills until after the shutdown. Thursday will be the 34th day out of work for more than 800,000 government workers.
Morgantown resident Christine Wallace spoke during city council’s public portion of the meeting and said she asked that furloughed government employees receive utility assistance from the board.
“It was fabulous to hear the Morgantown Utility Board’s response,” Wallace said. “They went above and beyond what I thought they would give.”
Wallace, who is married to Third Ward Councilor Ryan Wallace, said she was happy with both MUB and city council’s decision to address the government shutdown this week.
“I think a lot of people are on the same page, and I think that’s great for our area, to be really willing to offer that kind of assistance,” Wallace said. “Even in Mon County and some of the areas around us, there are people that are parents that just aren’t getting a paycheck.”
City council proposed a deferred payment accommodation for utilities on a case-by-case basis. They said direct impact of the federal furlough must be demonstrated, and the MUB must be contacted for any accommodation.
At the end of the partial government shutdown, past-due balances will be spread out over a six-month period.
Since the board also handles the city’s trash billings, City Manager Paul Brake said the assistance will also apply to trash bills.
Non-federal workers also facing challenges due to the shutdown can also receive the MUB benefit. For example, the MUB also offered to assist Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients who won’t receive food stamps due to budget cuts, Wallace said. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) has already issued the state’s SNAP benefits for February, ahead of schedule due to the shutdown.
“It is nice to know these people will receive assistance,” Wallace said.
“I appreciate the initiative that’s been shown here, and I appreciate the fact that we’re able to make sure these accommodations for folks that are struggling,” First Ward Councilor Rachel Fetty During said during her councilor’s report.
But while she’s happy the government workers will be looked after while the shutdown carries on, Fetty said she hopes people can take lessons from the compassion shared by the community and continue it in the future. She added that basic utilities like water and electricity are things families will always struggle with.
“I would encourage us to keep this same open-heartedness and open-mindedness in play long after, hopefully, everyone gets back to work,” Fetty said. “It will always be a real test of our resolve and character to try to take what we’re learning from this furlough into the future.”