The Rebound Indiana: Overdue bills preventing kids from virtual learning

Posted at 6:00 AM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 07:53:16-04

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INDIANAPOLIS — Some students aren't able to connect to their virtual classrooms through no fault of their own.

Kiymani Russell, a third grader at Edison School of the Arts, is keeping up with her school work through paper packets, since she can't do any of her school work online.

She doesn't have internet service at home because of a past due cable bills with Spectrum.

Her mother says she may owe $1,000 because she faced tough financial times. Her pleas for help fell on deaf ears.

Swantella Nelson, her mother, says she tried to talk to Spectrum to get internet service so her daughter can do school work.

"No they are not going to do it," Nelson said. "They want their money."

Stand for Children, an advocacy group, is critical of Spectrum for not helping kids who have disconnected services when schools were forced to switch to e-learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While some internet providers are trying to do the right thing, there are a few, like Spectrum, that continue to hold a hard line that are keeping families in need from being able to access the internet is essential," said Justin Ohlemiller, executive director for the group. "The internet is not a nice to have. It is a must when comes to the education of kids."

Elvira Beltran's children also didn't have internet access due to unpaid bills, until an anonymous donor paid off her past due Spectrum bill of more than $250.

Stand for Children says her service was still denied until the donor also paid extra past due bills of $208 connected to the rental property.

RTV6 reached out to Spectrum's corporate office with the names and details of the people we spoke with so they could respond.

"We don't comment on specific customer issues," a spokesperson for Spectrum said. "Our position has not changed relative to our 60-day free internet offer for students and educators. Beyond that we have extended the availability through June 30th."

Nelson says she reached out to Spectrum before speaking with RTV6 and her request for service was denied, despite the statement given to RTV6.

Other utility companies have voluntarily helped people with past due bills.

Indianapolis Power and Light Company has kept the lights on for 33,000 customers with past due bills dating back to March 14. Citizens Energy is helping about 13,000 customers with past due bills since March 19.

Those customers will be expected to repay those bill later.

For more information on Stand for Children, you can visit its website.

If you are looking for more academic support resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.