Gulf Breeze, Fla., business owner Michael Esmond donated thousands of dollars to pay the bills of 114 families who were at risk of having their utilities shut off.
According to Gulf Breeze utility supervisor Joanne Oliver, Esmond paid $7,615.40 to cover the expenses of the bills, which were past-due, the news outlet reported. Holiday cards notifying the families that their utility bills have been paid will be mailed this week.
“This year to me probably is more meaningful that last year with the pandemic and all the people out of work having to stay home,” Esmond, owner of Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas, said. “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.”
The Florida businessman started his giving spree last year, when he spent $4,600 to help out 36 families. This year, many of the households he paid for had bills under $100, but they were unable to make the payments amid the pandemic.
“That really impacted me – that people can’t even afford to pay a $100 bill on their utilities and things are so bad,” Esmond said. “That’s why I was able to pay for 114 families.”
The coronavirus pandemic has had damaging effects on the economy, as hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to apply for unemployment.
Congress also has yet to pass a fifth stimulus package to help small businesses that have been forced to shutter.
Esmond says he feels some guilt over knowing that his business did well during the pandemic, while most people have been struggling.
“We’ve had a good year, and that’s why I want to share what I have with the people who need it,” he said.
The city of Gulf Breeze has granted residents a grace period of 60 days to pay their bills due to the pandemic, but the families Esmond helped were past the 60-day mark.