NORWALK, Iowa – A metro suburb is getting creative and coming together to help out residents having a tough time paying their utility bills. The program is called Norwalk NICE, which stands for “Neighborly Is a Community Effort.”
The program started last spring when city council members were trying to find a way to help those who were struggling to pay. A meeting with the Norwalk Area Ministerial Association led to the round-up concept, where customers who wanted could round up their bill to the nearest dollar and the difference would go to the program and help other customers in need pay their utility bills.
“When the pandemic hit, I mean it wasn’t a reason for it but it was a factor, that sometimes we just don’t know what to expect,” Norwalk City Manager Luke Nelson said. “And if somebody finds themselves out of employment, but they still need to pay that utility bill to at least give them a little bit of gap or a little bit of time from the time when they’re bringing in dollars to be able to pay that bill sometimes it can be one maybe two months just to get somebody over that hump.”
The city council gave $5,000 upfront to get it started. Now, the city works with the organization IMPACT to determine who qualifies. Those who do qualify can receive up to $100 twice a year.
So far, the program has helped 21 families and 132 residents are donating.
“It’s in the name, neighborly is a community effort,” Nelson said. “You never know when your neighbors or you yourself are going to be found in a difficult spot. It’s nice those kinds of programs are out there for those unique situations.”
If you’re interested in participating by either becoming a donor or seeing if you qualify for help, call Norwalk City Hall at (515) 981-0228 or email email@example.com.