By Cassie McClure
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 2/28/21
It’s hard to admit when a bill can’t be paid. For businesses, it can seem like an extra blow during troubled times, when it’s up to owners to support not only their customers but also their employees. Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) urges businesses to also take advantage of financial assistance to ensure that any delayed utility bills are up to date and paid.
While a mandate from City Council halted shut-offs of utility services since March 2020, LCU wants to ensure that those who may need help due to long-term pandemic difficulties are not unprepared when shut-offs do resume. Fortunately, City Council approved Council Emergency Assistance Funding on August 27, 2020, which includes assistance for residents and includes 30 other commercial accounts.
A representative for a local organization, who wanted the organization to remain nameless, explained that since they were in the business of helping others in the community, it was hard to ask for help. They debated against holding a fundraiser to help themselves, so the relief that LCU offered was crucial.
“The point is to not to be behind,” they said. “But LCU was amazing and understanding of our situation. It was a 5-minute phone call where they took our information and then followed up quickly to help us with our account.”
“We had been good customers before, so they took that into consideration when we received our help,” they said. “It really helped the headache we had about going forward.”
LCU still has funding available through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allocated by the state to the City of Las Cruces (City). The City received over $7 million dollars for COVID-19 response and relief efforts, part of which can help residents and businesses who suffered hardship due to the pandemic between March 1, 2020, to December 30, 2020.
Steven Valdez, LCU billing & receivables supervisor, explained that business owners might believe that only residents can receive assistance, but each account – even a commercial account – is unique. He said, “Like that organization said, if we can tell that for years and years you have been steady customers that have paid on time, and this has just been a tough time for your business, LCU may be able to help decrease the utility amount past due,” he said.
The best way to get help is to call LCU Customer Central at (575) 541-2111 and determine the best payment option for you. As LCU gets closer to when utility disconnections occur, it may be harder to navigate a payment process, Valdez stressed. “It is just a quick call to let us know that you might need a little bit of help during a time that no business owner could have predicted,” he said.
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO INSET: If your past due notices are coming to your business and you need help, give LCU a call to see how COVID-19 financial assistance can help ease your utility bill burden.