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BrightRidge invests $50,000 in RegionAHEAD fund; partners with TVA on Heisse Johnson Hand Up Fund
BrightRidge Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday evening to invest $50,000 with the RegionAHEAD fund to assist struggling small businesses and partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Community Care Fund to enhance aid to residential customers through the Heisse Johnson Hand Up Fund.
“BrightRidge is assisting as many customers as possible, including the existing no-disconnect policy for both residential and commercial customers, partnering with TVA to enhance our Heisse Johnson Hand Up Fund aiding residential customers, and now by investing in RegionAHEAD,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said. “Our Board of Directors understands small businesses are the backbone of our regional economy, and like all of our customers, have been greatly impacted by social distancing and work at home constraints.”
RegionAHEAD, organized by regional business and Chamber of Commerce leaders, will provide grants to small businesses engaged in the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, food services, retail trade and manufacturing.
Collectively, TVA and BrightRidge also partnered Tuesday under TVA’s new Community Care Fund to enhance aid offered to BrightRidge residential customers with overdue power bills through the Heisse Johnson Hand Up Fund.
“We certainly thank TVA for their ongoing efforts to aid customers,” Dykes said. “These new funds nearly double our annual assistance and stretch our reach in a truly meaningful way.”
With the TVA Community Care partnership, BrightRidge and TVA will contribute a total of $60,000 to the Fund, providing up to $200,000 in 2020 to assist residential customers with past due power bills.
In 2019, customers contributed $51,332 to the Hand Up Fund, and BrightRidge gifted $113,253 to help struggling residential customers catch-up on power bills. BrightRidge matches all Hand Up Fund donations up to $70,000.
“As a publicly owned and governed utility, BrightRidge has stood for 75 years as a pillar of support for regional development,” Dykes said. “With businesses beginning to reopen, we fully understand the need to continue to focus on how we might further assist our customers. And certainly, we ask those who can to consider helping others through donating.”
Heisse Johnson program participants can receive utility payment assistance up to $250 each calendar year as donations allow. In the previous 12 months, at least 874 customers and their families were assisted through the program.
The late Rev. Dr. Heisse Johnson initiated the program in 1989 in partnership with BrightRidge, Atmos Energy, Good Samaritan Ministries, the Salvation Army, and other community agencies.
The Hand Up Fund is administered by the United Way of Washington County and distributed to those in need via a screening process administered through the Salvation Army, Good Samaritan Ministries, and the Jonesborough Water Department.
At the outset of COVID-19 nationally, BrightRidge took immediate steps to assist residential and commercial customers by suspending disconnections for non-payment, closing the public lobby and instituting social distancing and work at home policies for employees.
BrightRidge also offers payment arrangements not provided by most public utilities, assisting customers with 13,390 payment arrangements in 2019.
“The key is communication,” Dykes said. “If a customer plans to use the existing no disconnect period, we respectfully request that the customer contact Customer Service to review all available options to keep their account as current as possible.”
To learn more about how to donate or how to apply for small business grant consideration, please visit www.RegionAHEAD.com. Donations may also be made to the Local Business Recovery Fund, 603 East Market Street Johnson City, TN, 37601.
To donate to the Heisse Johnson Hand Up Fund or for more information on any BrightRidge programs, phone Customer Service at 423-952-5000 or initiate a customer support Live Chat conversation at www.BrightRidge.com.