Remembering Dr. King And ‘The Other America’

Once again on the third Monday in January, much of the nation will mark the anniversary of the death of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Countless programs and events will no doubt recall several of his famous speeches from the 1963 March on Washington’s “I Have A Dream” to his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” delivered in Memphis during the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike.

In a life of only 39 years, Dr. King captured global attention in his valiant, nonviolent fight for the values of freedom, justice and equality. Preaching and fighting for long overdue citizenship rights first promised to all in the Declaration of Independence, he championed economic justice— especially for blacks to have safe, decent and affordable housing. He also called for full participation in the economy, and an end to financial exploitation.

Now 51 years since his assassination, his words still strike a resonant chord. His words— written as prose but markedly poetic— remain as timely as they are timeless.

“There are so many problems facing our nation and our world, that one could just take off anywhere,” Dr. King said in a speech delivered on April 14, 1967 at Stanford University.

Entitled, “The Other America” Dr. King began by recapping the nation’s bounty and beauty, noting how “America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity,” and how “millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.”

For his audience, those comments almost certainly reflected the lifestyles of the students attending one of the nation’s elite educational institutions.

In his inimitable Baptist cadence, Dr. King then went on to speak of the “Other America” that was equally real but far removed from the commonplace privilege associated with Stanford.

“Little children in this other America are forced to grow up with clouds of inferiority forming every day in their little mental skies. As we look at this other America, we see it as an arena of blasted hopes and shattered dreams,” said Dr. King. “It’s more difficult today because we are struggling for genuine equality. It’s much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a livable income and a good solid job. It’s much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee the right to live in sanitary, decent, housing conditions.”

In 2019 the two Americas Dr. King wrote about still remain. A nation once lauded for its enviable and expanding middle class has evolved into a nation of people who are either growing wealthy or growing poor. In this unfortunate process, the nation’s envied middle class is vanishing.

Historically, homeownership has been a reliable measure of the nation’s middle class. Late last year it stood at 64.4 according to the Census Bureau. Yet when race and ethnicity are added who owns a home today discloses a far different picture. White homeownership was higher than the national average at 73.1 percent.

But blacks still-suffering from the financial losses from the now decade-old foreclosure crisis had a homeownership rate of 41.7 percent, lower than its pre-housing crisis rate of 47.7 percent.

Today’s black homeownership resembles the same levels experienced at the time of the 1968 Fair Housing Act’s passage.

Latino homeownership today is higher than that of blacks at 46.3 percent; but still lower than its earlier pre-crisis rate of 47.7.

Housing also remains troubled for renters as well. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, the nation lacks more than seven million affordable rental homes that affect 43.8 million families. Moreover, 11 million families pay more than half of their income on housing and are considered severely-cost burdened.

As of January 3, over 1,100 HUD contracts with landlords for its Section 8 rental voucher program expired. By February, another 1,000 more contracts are expected to expire. At press time, the stalemated federal government shutdown continued, leaving millions of people uncertain about their lives, or livelihoods or both. While landlords and HUD figure out the paperwork, 1.2 million families relying on this vital rental support program remain at risk.

Also caught in partisan bickering of a federal government shutdown are men and women— the military and civil servants— whose service to the country is deemed so essential that they must continue to work without knowing when another paycheck will arrive. Another 800,000 furloughed federal workers may be at home; but like others affected by the shutdown, they too still need to pay their rent or mortgage, honor their financial obligations and take care of children as best they can.

When times are tough financially, a range of predatory lenders seize opportunities to tempt those who are hard-pressed for cash with interest rates on loans that would make a bookie blush. When a loan of only a few hundred dollars comes with interest payments that double or triple the cash borrowed, predatory lenders are ready to exploit those with few or no financial options.

Those who are unpaid or underemployed; those who are working but failing to earn a salary comparable to their education and training, student loan repayments can take a financial backseat to housing, utilities, or other daily living needs. At press deadline, the federal shutdown was approaching the 1995 shutdown record of 21 days.

In 1967, Dr. King advised his Stanford University audience, “Somewhere we must come to see that social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals…. And so we must help time, and we must realize that the time is always right to do right.”

This year, may we all honor Dr. King and do our respective efforts to make America live up to its promise of opportunity for all.

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s Communications Deputy Director. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Insurance Flip-Flop Hurts Vulnerable Seniors

The vast majority of seniors have at least one chronic condition, and more than two thirds have two or more chronic conditions, so choosing the right coverage is important.

Fortunately, premium prices are expected to remain stable. But out-of-pocket pharmacy costs are expected to rise thanks almost entirely to the benefit design set by many insurance plans. To keep premiums low, insurers are saddling sick enrollees with higher out-of-pocket bills.

Increasing out-of-pocket expenses for patients with multiple chronic conditions is counterproductive.

Higher cost sharing reduces the likelihood of adherence to medication regimens, thus aggravating people’s underlying health problems and driving up costs elsewhere in the healthcare system.

Research shows that non-adherence causes at least 10 percent of hospitalizations and costs the rest of the healthcare system upwards of $289 billion annually. It also puts a higher cost burden on those who need help the most— research has shown that for the sickest, a $1 increase in co-payments results in a $1.78 increase in overall healthcare spending. This especially hurts seniors with multiple chronic conditions.

Health plans are supposed to shield patients from financial ruin when disease strikes. Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, insurers have been prohibited from denying insurance to anyone. Beneficiaries pay a monthly premium with the understanding that their individual health dollars support a larger “risk” pool. Those who are healthy thus subsidize those who are sick, knowing that if they themselves fall ill, they’ll be protected.

When it comes to prescription drug coverage, however, insurers increasingly flip this dynamic. They’re effectively raising costs on the sickest individuals to offer savings to healthy enrollees.

Here’s how. Pharmaceutical companies offer large discounts to health insurers to ensure their drugs are covered by health plans. In Medicare, for example, brand-name drugs are discounted by 30 percent, on average. Last year, the pharmaceutical industry paid out $153 billion in total discounts and rebates.

Insurers keep some of these rebates for themselves and use the rest to lower premiums. That’s good news for healthy enrollees.

But these discounts are not shared directly with patients at the pharmacy. Most insurers require patients to pay co-insurance on brand-name drugs, which is a set percentage of a drug’s sticker, or “list,” price, rather than a percentage of the discounted price the insurer pays.

As a result, sicker patients who fill lots of prescriptions rarely benefit from the massive discounts granted by drug companies. This isn’t how insurance is supposed to work.

The Trump administration recognizes that drug benefit design is undermining the foundational promise of insurance. In its 2019 budget, the administration put forward a plan that would require insurers in the Medicare drug benefit to share a portion of negotiated discounts with patients at the point of sale.

These are encouraging developments. Unless insurers share discounts directly with patients, high cost-sharing requirements will continue to prevent sick enrollees from taking their prescriptions as directed. That means worse health outcomes for those patients— and higher spending for the Medicare program, and thus taxpayers.

Kenneth E. Thorpe is a professor of health policy at Emory University and chairman of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.

Upcoming ‘AfroPop’ Docuseries Designed To Give Audience A Unique Experience

Out of a dire need for more programming focusing specifically on the global black experience, a group of aspiring producers and filmmakers created “AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange,” to give viewers a unique portrait of black life other than what is widely portrayed in mainstream media.

AfroPoP is a public television show based in the U.S. featuring independent documentaries and short films about life, art and culture from throughout the African Diaspora which includes all of Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, South America, Europe, the U.S. and anywhere people of African descent have made a significant contribution to the culture. AfroPoP, according to its webpage, is the only series on American public television focusing solely on stories from the African Diaspora.

The independent documentary series is produced by Black Public Media (BPM), of which Leslie Fields-Cruz is executive director, distributed by American Public Television (APT), and partially sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“Many complicated, opposing and controversial viewpoints are often presented about Africa. Perhaps because of this, Africa is one of the most fertile grounds in our modern age for new, fresh and exciting exploration,” says an AfroPop webpage.

Angela Tucker, AfroPop, Co-Executive Producer

Mariama Shepherd

Angela Tucker, AfroPop, Co-Executive Producer

Angela Tucker, an Emmy-nominated producer, writer and director, will also play a crucial in the production and dissemination of the content included in this season of AfroPop.

The documentary series co-executive producer is based in New Orleans and has an extensive background in filmmaking and producing.

Some of her most noteworthy directorial work includes: “Paper Chase,” a teen comedy in pre-production with Gunpowder and Sky; “All Styles,” a feature length dance film in post-production starring Fik-shun (“So You Think You Can Dance”); “Black Folk Don’t,” a documentary web series featured in Time Magazine’s “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life,” and (A)Sexual, a feature-length documentary that streamed on Netflix and Hulu for four years.

“Since I was young, I was always aware of there not being enough content that was about black life,” Tucker said of what sparked her to interest in black filmmaking.

“I really just always think about myself as a young person and how I really longed to see people that looked like me. From seeing people that looked like me in all different types of situations, you know you’re better able to understand yourself and the world that you live in.”

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native went to film school at Columbia University, and from there entered into the film industry working initially at a social issues documentary production company, which is when she met Fields-Cruz, the founder of AfroPop.

“We just sort of had a shared interest in finding more out… about black media,” Tucker said of the relationship that she and Fields-Cruz developed early on.

AfroPop is a documentary series in its 11th season. It will feature stories spotlighting the global black experience, and was created mainly to help bring stories of the African diaspora to American viewers.

Tucker saw the series as a means for providing further opportunities for black up-and-coming filmmakers.

“I think AfroPop allows or provides an opportunity for filmmakers to really grapple with complicated issues that are facing black people.”

Danielle Brooks, AfroPop Hostess

Terrence Jennings

Danielle Brooks, AfroPop Hostess

Each season has a different celebrity host. This season, Danielle Brooks will be the hostess and will be chiefly responsible for uniquely introducing the series’ five episodes. Brooks was approached by Fields-Cruz and series director Duana Butler, and agreed to host without hesitation.

Previous hosts of AfroPoP have included Idris Elba; Anika Noni Rose; Wyatt Cenac; Gabourey Sidibe; Anthony Mackie; Yaya DaCosta; Jussie Smollett; Nikki Beharie; and Nicholas L. Ashe.

This season will premiere on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 21, 2019 at 8 p.m. on the WORLD Channel, which is offered on most cable television providers. New episodes will air every Monday through February 18, 2019.

Tucker, moreover, accentuated the necessity for cross-cultural understanding in regards to the enlightenment AfroPop will provide for those unfamiliar with black culture.

“And also for people who are not black, I think it’s important for them to have a better understanding of different aspects of black life, just to understand us better.”

Throughout AfroPop’s offseason, episodes from this season will be rebroadcast on various channels. Tucker has been with AfroPop since 2011. She explained how the series has evolved, especially in its delivery to diverse audiences.

“One thing I would say is the internet has played a big role in letting more people have a better understanding [and] know how to find the series, and kind of raise the profile of the series,” she said.

“I think every year more and more people know about that, and that only benefits not only the films but the filmmakers. And I think we’ve always been really fortunate to get talent who also kind of helped raise the profile of that.”

The main topics covered in the upcoming season of AfroPop will include a look into the genocide in Rwanda, black politicians in the U.S., “a law enforcement unit in charge of fighting against abuse of Congolese women and children” activism against apartheid in South Africa and black cultural identity.

The single greatest aspect of AfroPop, said Tucker, is that it sends a message that the black community is not monolithic.

“There’s no one set of experiences that are singular to the black community,” she said. “So what this season rolls out— you’re able to really see that first hand by traveling all over the world.”

Tucker said she expects the docuseries gives the black audience an experience it will never forget.

“I hope that [black America] not only gets to see different parts of the world, but also what different characters felt.”

Viewers can find more information on the series, by visiting www.blackpublicmedia.org, http://afropop.tv/ or following them on Twitter (@BLKPublicMedia) or on Facebook. For viewing information, check local listings or www.APTonline.org.

Ten Local Civil And Human Rights Activists Honored At 31st Annual MLK Jr. Awards Dinner

— The 31st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Awards Reception and Dinner, the largest celebration of Dr. King’s birthday in Anne Arundel County will be held Friday, January 18, 2019 at 6 p.m. at La Fountaine Bleue in Glen Burnie.

A highlight of the program will be the world premiere of the documentary film, “The Dream Revisited, Civil Rights in Perspective,” directed by award-winning filmmakers and partners in Imagyn, Inc., Charles and May Love based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The documentary pays tribute to Dr. King and discusses the struggle for civil rights that still exists to this day.

“I watched this beautiful film and was deeply moved by it,” said Dr. William Ferris, former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C. “It is a powerful, timely reminder of how race continues to define our lives.”

Addressing guests at the dinner and reception will be Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman; Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley; Congressman Anthony Brown; and Steven McAdams on behalf of Governor Larry Hogan. Other speakers will include St. John’s College President Panayotis Kanelos and Captain Robert Dews of the United States Naval Academy. The Naval Academy Gospel Choir will also perform.

Designed to pay homage to the memory of Dr. King, the annual dinner honors local civil and human rights activists whose deeds, words and actions have helped keep his legacy alive. Proceeds from the event will be used to underwrite the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Reception and the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner to ensure their continued existence in the future, honoring Dr. King.

Midshipman First Class Aaron J. Lewis, Drum Major Award

Midshipman First Class Aaron J. Lewis, Drum Major Award

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Dream Keepers Award

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Dream Keepers Award

M. Eve Hurwitz, Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award

M. Eve Hurwitz, Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award

Congressman John Sarbanes, Dream Keepers Award

Congressman John Sarbanes, Dream Keepers Award

George Craig “Lassie” Belt, Peace Maker Award

George Craig “Lassie” Belt, Peace Maker Award

Alderman Marc Rodriguez, Morris H. Blum Humanitarian Award

Alderman Marc Rodriguez, Morris H. Blum Humanitarian Award

Najiba Hlemi, We Share the Dream Award

Najiba Hlemi, We Share the Dream Award

Patricia Cole, Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award

Patricia Cole, Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award

Vivian Gist Spenser, Drum Major Award

Vivian Gist Spenser, Drum Major Award

Wandra Ashley-Williams, Courageous Leadership Award

Wandra Ashley-Williams, Courageous Leadership Award

Celebrate The New Year With 10 Free Flowering Trees Or Five Free Crapemyrtles From The Arbor Day Foundation

— Local residents can ring in the New Year with 10 free flowering trees by joining the Arbor Day Foundation any time during January 2019.

By becoming a part of the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation, new members will receive 10 free flowering trees or five crapemyrtles.

The flowering trees include: two Sargent crabapples, three American redbuds, two Washington hawthorns and three white flowering dogwoods.

“These stunning trees will beautify your home with lovely flowers of pink, yellow and white colors,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “These trees are perfect for large and small spaces.”

The free trees are part of the Foundation’s Trees for America campaign and will be shipped postpaid at the right time for planting, between February 1 and May 31, 2019 with enclosed planting instructions. The 6- to 12-inch tall trees are guaranteed to grow or they will be replaced free of charge.

Members will also receive a subscription to the Foundation’s bimonthly publication, Arbor Day, and The Tree Book, which includes information about tree planting and care. To become a member of the Foundation and to receive the free trees, send a $10 contribution by January 31, 2019 to:

Ten Flowering Trees

Arbor Day Foundation

100 Arbor Avenue

Nebraska City, NE 68410

Celebrate Martin Luther King Day 2019 in Annapolis

— Visit Annapolis and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the holiday weekend of January 19-21, 2019.

Maryland’s beautiful seaside capital has a history that prominently features African Americans. The city’s records from the 19th century state “they comprised one-third of the population in Annapolis.”

King became the inspirational leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement after delivering his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

Awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for advancing civil rights through nonviolent civil disobedience, King tragically lost his life four years later.

You and your family can spend Saturday and Sunday visiting the Banneker-Douglas Museum and Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial, along with the other usual Annapolis landmarks like the Naval Academy.

On Monday, get ready to be entertained during the 5th Annual MLK Day Dream to Reality Parade, which is hosted by the City of Annapolis and the MLK Parade Committee.

The parade starts at 12 noon on Monday, January 21, 2019— beginning on Amos Garrett Boulevard and continuing down West Street and Main Street, the parade will be a celebration of Dr. King’s life and equality for all Americans.

Students Present Famed Opera ‘Carmen’ At Special MLK Day Event

A special Martin Luther King Jr. Day presentation of the George Bizet opera, “Voices of Carmen” that will include a discussion examining escalating conflicts and violence among young people is planned for Charm City.

The urban musical adaptation of the iconic opera, which is set in a high school to contemporary rhythm and beats, as well as what the director calls a creative vehicle for important conversations, is scheduled for Monday, January 21, 2019 at Motor House in Baltimore 2:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Members of the Carmen Youth Council, (left to right) Edima Essien, Jade Underwood and Christein Wills.

Courtesy Photos/PushtoStartInc.

Members of the Carmen Youth Council, (left to right) Edima Essien, Jade Underwood and Christein Wills.

“Basically, one of the things about doing a new musical production is that it’s designed to be a vehicle for community conversations,” said writer, director and choreographer CJay Philip, who first produced an adaptation of “Carmen” in 2007 in Zurich, Switzerland with her brother and co-choreographer Kelvin Hardy.

Philip says the feedback she received during earlier auditions from her students made her realize the benefits of establishing a production to recognize the slain civil rights leader’s holiday.

“I was shocked how fantastic and quick [the students] were wit the material,” she said.

“The young people wanted to do this for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day specifically because of what we are talking about … escalating conflicts with teens and how do we de-escalate them and what are the tools to deal with fear and frustration,” Philip said. “Specifically, we talked about this under the umbrella of nonviolence, so that’s why we’re doing the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event.”

A French Opéra comique, “Carmen” is also based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée that was first published in 1845. According to historians, the opera premiered in Paris in 1875 and the opening run was denounced by the majority of critics.

Set in southern Spain, it tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to Escamillo, a matador. Jose ultimately kills Carmen in a fit of jealousy.

Historians say Bizet died of a heart attack at 36 in 1875, never knowing how popular Carmen would become.

The more recent escalation in school violence and relational aggression among teens led Philip to believe the time was right to bring “Carmen” to the stage and into communities as a vehicle for dialogue around sensitive topics.

“I was tired of town hall meetings and community conversations after an incident,” Philip said. “Teenagers are being beat up, bullied and even killed over a break up. We have to find a way to get out in front of this problem.”

“Voices of Carmen” is my attempt to create an avenue for youth voices to be heard and for communities to listen. Young people face a lot of pressures, stress, fear and are shamed every day. How can we help them deal with it and know they are not alone?”

Phillip has updated the work and rewritten much of the script. “Voices of Carmen,” has a youth council of students who advise Philip on school climate, music styles, themes and relevance of the work.

Contemporary arrangements of the music by Bizet along with eight originals songs written and arrangement by CJay in collaboration with her husband and music producer Winston Philip range from R&B to Pop and Hip-Hop.

Citywide auditions are scheduled from March 2 to March 4 for youth ages 14-21 and the show premieres July 31, 2019 at the Baltimore School for the Arts (BSA). The show will also be presented on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage on August 3, 2019.

“Voices of Carmen” music is available free on Sound Cloud for students to learn and prepare for the citywide auditions in March. Once selected for a role, students will record an original cast album before the start of “Camp Carmen” on July 8, 2019 at the BSA.

Dina Maeva recording songs for “Voices of Carmen” for the original cast album

Dina Maeva recording songs for “Voices of Carmen” for the original cast album

For tickets for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day performance, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/voices-of-carmen-mlk-day-performance-tickets-53158461389

Three Strategies For Helping Distressed Young People Become More Resilient

— Is the United States facing an epidemic of lost and distressed youth who struggle to handle the daily challenges of life? Statistics say yes. The suicide rate for young people is on the rise, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Despite such troubling statistics, there are ways to better prepare young people so they can bounce back from the trials that life throws at them, said Dr. Kim Metcalfe, a retired professor of early childhood education and psychology, and author of “Let’s Build ExtraOrdinary Youth Together.”

“Children need much more than love, food, clothing, shelter and electronic devices,” Metcalfe said. “They need to be armed with the ability to be resilient so they can navigate through childhood and into adulthood, dealing with adversity, trauma, tragedy and other significant sources of stress. We know the traits of emotionally resilient people and we know the types of experiences and opportunities that youth need to develop these traits.”

Resilient individuals don’t see themselves as victims, even though sometimes they are. They refuse to play the blame game, and they know how to intercede on their own best behalf.

Resilient individuals view setbacks as challenges that they are capable of addressing successfully. They feel hopeful rather than helpless.

For Metcalfe, helping distressed young people is a mission. Her daughter committed suicide in 2012, so Metcalfe speaks both as a professional and as a mother who has suffered a loss.

Metcalfe offers suggestions for parents and others on ways they can help build resilience in young people so they know they can handle the situation when life becomes difficult:

•Give them opportunities to self-regulate. Self-regulation is when you are able to take control of your thinking, your decisions and your behavior. If you want your children to develop the skill of self-regulation, Metcalfe says, you must provide them opportunities where they are required to stop and think about the consequences of those decisions and behaviors. That means you can’t make all their decisions for them.

•Use missteps, mistakes and disappointments as learning opportunities. The next time your adolescent does something you aren’t thrilled about, Metcalfe says, try asking them questions such as, “What other choice could you have made?” Use follow-up questions, such as: “If you made that choice what do you think might have happened?” “Is there another choice or option you could have considered?”

•Model the resilience you want to see in them. One way to build more resilience in a teenager is to make certain you are modeling the behavior you want to see. They notice how you handle challenging situations. “If you have a difficult time bouncing back from setbacks, then it makes sense that your teens will have difficulty, too,” Metcalfe says. “Modeling for our youth what we want to develop in them is very powerful.

Resilient people are able to cope with challenges, weather the storms in life, and work successfully through setbacks to reach their goals and make their dreams come true.”

“People like to say that kids are resilient,” Metcalfe says. “That’s not always true. In fact, it’s often not true. But they can develop the thinking habits and skills to live through adversity and recover in ways that allow them to live the lives they were born to live and do in life what they were born to do.”

Dr. Kim Metcalfe, a retired professor of early childhood education and psychology, is the author of Let’s Build ExtraOrdinary Youth Together (www.xtraordinaryyouth.com). She is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the California Association for the Education of Young Children, and the American Psychological Association.

BGE Reminds Customers About Important Energy Assistance Programs

— BGE reminds customers of important energy assistance available to help meet their energy needs. With many Marylanders impacted by the ongoing federal government shutdown, BGE is taking steps to expand awareness of the programs in place to help customers through temporary or extended financial hardship.

“We know this may be a challenging time for some of our customers, especially those affected by the federal government shutdown, and we are committed to helping them address their energy needs,” said Rodney Oddoye, BGE’s chief customer officer. “We have many programs available to help customers and can also connect those who need extra assistance to community and government partners who also offer support. It is our goal to assist every customer who contacts us and requests assistance.”

BGE offers payment options, such as budget billing, which averages payments out over a 12-month period to help customers manage their monthly energy bill, and flexible payment arrangements including individually tailored payment installment plans. Customers who may be challenged to pay their BGE bill should contact BGE as soon as possible at 800.685.0123.

Customers may also register for My Account, a web-based interactive tool that provides customers with a detailed analysis of their specific energy use and offers ways to save money and energy. Customers can visit BGE.com to learn more about these programs.

BGE customers can apply for energy assistance through the Maryland Department of Human Services, by visiting a Local Energy Assistance Office, or by calling the Office of Home Energy Programs at 1-800-332-6347.