Delays in state assistance frustrate local family. What's behind the delays?

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- An Antioch family of seven fought for more than half a year to keep the utilities running in their home after the COVID-19 pandemic left them struggling financially. 7 On Your Side first introduced you to the Johnson family back during the holidays. That story got the attention of both PG&E and Comcast.

"I can't sleep at night. I wake up in the middle of the night worried. Are they going to cut our power off?" That's what Edwina Johnson said to 7 on Your Side back in December, right before Christmas.

PG&E saw the story and reached out to Johnson to assure her it would not disconnect her service during the holidays. The utility also put her on the CARE plan, a discount program for families in need. Shortly after that, the state came through with assistance to pay her PG&E bill dating back to July.

"I'm so grateful to you guys for doing that because I don't think they would have done anything without you. I really don't," said Johnson.

Johnson had applied for the aid to pay for her utilities in July. She waited and waited for an answer, finally contacting 7 on Your Side in desperation. 7 On Your Side then reached out to the state.

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Johnson received a notice on Dec. 1, approving financial assistance for her PG&E and Comcast bills. But it took another six weeks for any of that promised aid to come through.

Geoffrey Ross is a deputy director with the state agency overseeing the rent relief program.

"The priority is folks of a particular income disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and then also most at risk of eviction," said Ross.

The state paid the PG&E bill on Jan. 11. However, the Comcast bill remained unpaid. Both the state and Johnson informed Comcast that a payment from the state would be coming.

However, the patience of Comcast ran out. Johnson says Comcast cut her off from service briefly on four separate occasions.

That scared her because she says her security cameras are all hooked up through Comcast.

RELATED: East Bay family of 7 fears losing PG&E during the holidays as state assistance stalls

"They keep telling me, 'Oh, you've been a customer for 20 years.' But they're treating me like garbage," Johnson said.

Ross says it's difficult to get payments to utility companies because there are hundreds of separate ones throughout the state.

"It is possible that we are a little slower in that response because we're having to still coordinate that assistance between the state program and that particular utility," said Ross.

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Comcast told 7 On Your Side at the end of January that their final extension would end in three weeks.

Johnson woke up one morning to find all her Comcast services had been shut down.

Comcast said it had not received the payment from the state.

The state blamed Comcast for the delay in processing the payment. The state had sent a paper check to Comcast that the utility said did not get processed until after the deadline.
All of Johnson's utilities have now been paid.

"I don't know how much you know what you did meant to me. Michael Finney, you are my hero. You are the greatest," she said.

If you're in danger of not making a payment, let your utility know. They often will work out a payment plan. If you're interested in the State Rental Assistance Program, which also includes help for utilities, you can contact them through this link. The deadline to apply is March 31.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
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