June 2022

Columbus Urban League assistance for AEP customers closed after 24 hours due to high demand

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
By Micah Walker
June 23, 2022

As American Electric Power continues to roll out its $1 million contribution to help those who were financially affected by the power outages in Greater Columbus, the Columbus Urban League announced Wednesday its initiative to assist residents.

The organization started an online application process for AEP customers who suffered medical, food, alternative lodging or other losses due to the outages on June 14-16. The Urban League originally said they can compensate a family or individual up to $500 in expenses.

However, after a day of launching the portal, the Urban League closed it down at 12 a.m. Friday due to overwhelming demand, President Stephanie Hightower said. About 2,800 people filled out the application.

“I believe AEP did the right thing by putting a pot of money together, but no one could have thought how massive this was going to be,” she said. “We had probably over 3,000 people apply and we narrowed it down to about 2,800 who looked like they had legitimate claims.”

The application was only available to individuals and families, and claims will be managed on a first-come, first-served basis. Adults ages 65 and older will be given the highest priority. Hightower said about 369 seniors applied.

A $300,000 grant from AEP provided initial funding for the effort, but the Urban League is hoping to receive more funding to meet the needs of applicants, Hightower said.

In meantime, the Urban League will decrease the maximum amount applicant can receive from $500 to $300 to spread the funds to more people, she said.

“We definitely have not only a food insecurity problem in this community, but we still have a large portion of our population that are either living in poverty or below poverty,” Hightower said. “Most of these people don’t have insurance where they can call their home insurance company. And we gotta do a better job of taking care of our seniors.

“The AEP situation exposed what a lot of us in the human services arena already know; that we have a lot of people out here who are struggling and are hurting.”

The news from the Urban League came after nonprofit IMPACT Community Action announced that it is offering $250 Kroger gift cards to help people replace food lost during the outages. The organization will receive $250,000 from AEP to assist with their efforts, CEO Robert “Bo” Chilton said.

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