The coronavirus pandemic has caused “eight million people to slip into poverty,” according to a Columbia University study. With no additional government aid in sight and the last round of assistance ending 6 months ago, it’s unsurprising people have started to struggle.
One man, Michael Esmond, recently felt the pressures of the pandemic as his business faced some problems. So, Esmond decided to give back and pay the past-due utility bills for over 100 families totaling to $7,615.40, the city’s utility billing supervisor, Joanne Oliver said.
Esmond spoke to CNN about why this act of generosity meant so much to him. “This year to me probably is more meaningful [than] last year with the pandemic and all the people out of work having to stay home. Hurricane Sally slammed us pretty good and hurt a lot of people. We still have a lot of the blue roofs here, where they’re just covered with tarps.”
Last year alone, Esmond donated more than $4,600. This year his donations have been able to help three times as many families. Some families had past due bills that were less than $100.
He told CNN, “That really impacted me — that people can’t even afford to pay a $100 bill on their utilities and things are so bad. That’s why I was able to pay for 114 families.”
Michael is the owner of Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas, which he said had a pretty good year and is the reason why he can donate as much money as he did. He explained that he felt bad saying his business had a good a year as it did.
“We’ve had a good year, and that’s why I want to share what I have with the people who need it,” Esmond said to CNN.
Back in September, the Florida panhandle felt the effects of Hurricane Sally, causing over $5 billion worth of damages. As a result of this and the pandemic, the city has decided to extend its relief period for past due bills.
“We’re not cutting customers off. We’re not disconnecting them for nonpayment until they are more than 60 days past due,” Oliver told CNN.
She continued, “Even though our country and our city is currently going through probably the most difficult years of some of our lifetimes, there are still people out there who are generous and kind and really do want to help others. To have others within the community wanting to reach out and help their neighbors, now is more important than ever.”
Lead image: Danielle Apolinar/WEAR.