PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Since tolling began at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels, 10 On Your Side has been holding Elizabeth River Crossings accountable for toll billing and customer service issues.
Still, every once in awhile, someone asks 10 On Your Side to step in to help them.
Precious Goins reached out after she received a toll bill she couldn’t afford, largely accrued during her time living at the Ronald McDonald House.
Goins’ third child, Stevie Elizabeth, was born last June with a massive tumor.
The hospital was too much for Goins’ two boys to handle, so she took them to live with family in Richmond.
“I was caught in a place like, this baby really needs me, but I also have two other kids that really need me, so — who gets your time?” Goins said.
For the six weeks Stevie lived, Goins traveled between CHKD to be with her and Richmond to see her boys.
After Stevie’s death, the family was homeless.
Once they moved into a transitional housing shelter in Yorktown last fall, Goins found out she had been racking up toll bills for every prenatal visit and for every visit to the NICU. Without an address, the bills hadn’t been delivered, and late fees had already spiraled beyond what Goins could afford.
“I explained to [ERC] what happened, how I ended up in that situation, I wasn’t trying to run the tolls, but this is what’s happening in my life, and they said, ‘Okay, we’ll get a supervisor to call you back,” Goins said. “I hadn’t heard from them, so I thought it was done and over with.”
It wasn’t. Goins got a bill for $397 in March. Again, she tried to settle with ERC. When they wouldn’t work with her, she contacted 10 On Your Side.
“I’m not even in a position to give my children a home,” she said. “They could break this down. They should forgive some of this debt.”
Within a day of contacting ERC, Director of Customer Care Richard Gabris admitted to 10 On Your Side there had been a failure of communication with Goins.
She owed $522, but will now owe nothing.
A fund set up within CHKD covered $300, and ERC erased the rest.
ERC spokesperson Carley Dobson said CHKD reached out in March to make the company aware of a number of financially challenged families burdened by growing toll bills.
Since then, the two organizations have been working on a partnership, which includes providing CHKD patient-families in need with an E-Z Pass transponder pre-loaded with $35.
“ERC will also work with the CHKD Social Service programs to offer reduced settlement amounts when these families have an unpaid balance due,” Dobson wrote in a statement.
“This is a great example of us trying to be more empathetic with our customer base,” Gabris said. “If you contact us and tell us what your need is, we’ll do our very best to help you out.”
To contact ERC customer service, click here.
To donate to CHKD, click here.