George Wiley Center demands a walk-in payment center from National Grid, with Christmas Carols

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Activists from the George Wiley Center stood outside the National Grid offices on Melrose Street in Providence Thursday afternoon to sing modified Christmas Carols with a serious point: They want National Grid to open a customer service center at the site.

“We’re demanding that they open an office again,” said Camilo Viveiros, coordinator at the George Wiley Center. “They have an office in Brooklyn, New York. We think there’s no reason why New Yorkers should have it better than Rhode Islanders. We pay our bills just like they do in New York.

“When you call right now you’re often connected with someone in Syracuse, New York,” continued Viveiros. “They’re not always familiar with our laws and regulations here. We know that people who are struggling financially might not have a bank account. They need that face-to-face interaction. They may be reliant on check cashing [services]. We know that for many people English is not our first language. We need translation. We have to have accessibility.

“We want and an accessible, available office opened here, on Melrose Street. We don’t think it’s too much to ask. We’ve been asking for this for years.

“Sometimes folks go to a local payment place and they might not be aware that it’s what’s called a ‘non-authorized payment facility.’ And there’s a delay often, sometimes up to 12 days, sometimes a week.”

Marion Marrow, an organizer at the George Wiley Center, read testimonies of people who were in need of a walk-in payment center:

“I have been living without gas and electric for over a year. Last year while I was in the hospital National Grid shutoff my utilities. Since June of 2017 I have been stuck without access to electricity and heat.

It could have helped if National Grid had an office where I could have gone in to speak to someone directly. Not having electricity has limited my access to able to make phone calls.

After I found out about the 10percent restoration rule change that the George Wiley Center won, I am finally figuring out how I can use my rights to get my utilities restored. But it is unfortunate that I have had nowhere to go until I went to the George Wiley Center. National Grid can afford to have an office open for customers like myself who need to be able to go to speak to someone directly.”

Alicia Ballou, Warwick

“Because there wasn’t a National Grid office when I paid my bill on 11/20/2018 they only received on my payment on 11/29/2018, the delay caused me to default. If National Grid had an office for me to pay and others to pay our bill directly then it would prevent unnecessary hardship.”

Tara Roderick, Woonsocket

“National Grid is known [for] shut-offs,” said Viveiros. “This is an instance where we’re asking them to do something to benefit the community, to change that narrative, where they can help people and supply more good union jobs that are going to help people prevent shut-offs.”

Ross the Repairman
(Frosty the Snowman)

Ross the repairman
Was a jolly happy soul
With a family and a steady job
And a small but sturdy home

Ross the repairman
Worked hard for decent pay
Proud of his work
but the children know
How he lost his job one day

There must be some  
relief for them
They cannot pay the bills
For when you become
unemployed
You still deserve   
to live in warmth
Oh!

Ross the struggling father
Tried all ways that he could see
In these hard times
but he still needs heat
Just the same as you and me

I’m Dreaming of a PIPP Program
(I’m dreaming of a white Xmas)

I’m dreaming of a PIPP program
Just like the one we used to know
Where the heaters glisten
And our leaders listen
To hear how shut-offs hurt us so

I’m dreaming of a PIPP program
Clean energy all can afford
Make utilities basic rights
And may all Rhode Islanders
sleep tight

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells
Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way
Oh how many calls I’ve made
To National Grid today-eh!

Ringing phones
Ringing phones
Ringing all the way
Oh how many calls I’ve made
To National Grid today! Walking through the streets
On a winter’s windy day

Oh how many calls I’ve made
To National Grid today!

Away in an Apartment
(Away in a Manger)

Away in an apartment
No warm cozy bed
The little girl Gigi
Laid down her sweet head

The stars in the sky
Looked down where she lay
The little girl Gigi
Cold all night and day

The heaters aren’t working
The poor girl awakes
The little girl Gigi
No crying she makes

I’m freezing, dear Mama
My bed won’t get warm
Come stay by my side
Til morning is nigh

I’ll hug you, dear Gigi
And try to explain
The electric was shut off
It was too much to payBless all the dear children
Let’s show them we care
Make energy affordable
And utilities fair

The 12 Days of Shut-offs (12 days of Xmas)

On the first day of shut-off
No electricity
Heat and light are basic needs

On the second day of shut-off
No electricity
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs

On the third day of shut-off
No electricity
Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs

On the fourth day of shut-off
No electricity
Four extra scarves
Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs

On the fifth day of shut-off
No electricity
Five blankets deeeeep
Four extra scarves
Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs

On the sixth day of shut-off
No electricity
Six in our family
Five blankets deeeeep
Four extra scarves

Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs

On the seventh day of shut-off
No electricity
National Grid, too greedy
Six in our family
Five blankets deeeeep
Four extra scarves
Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs

On the eighth day of shut-off No electricity
Billions in profits
National Grid, too greedy
Six in our family
Five blankets deeeep
Four extra scarves
Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs

On the ninth day of shut-off
No electricity
How can we afford this?
Billions in profits
National Grid, too greedy
Six in our family
Five blankets deeeeep
Four extra scarves
Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs

On the tenth day of shut-off
No electricity
We demand fairness
How can we afford this?
Billions in profits
National Grid, too greedy
Six in our family
Five blankets deeeep
Four extra scarves
Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs

On the eleventh day of shut-off
No electricity
Thousands are suffering
We demand fairness
How can we afford this?
Billions in profits
National Grid, too greedy
Six in our family
Five blankets deeeep
Four extra scarves
Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needsOn the twelfth day of shut-off
No electricity
Rhode Island is listening
Thousands are suffering
We demand fairness
How can we afford this?
Billions in profits
National Grid, too greedy
Six in our family
Five blankets deeeep
Four extra scarves
Please let it end
Two woolen gloves
Heat and light are basic needs


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About Steve Ahlquist 961 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.atomicsteve@gmail.com