08 May Friday

Istanbul Raises Over $1.4 Million in 55 Hours to Help Residents With Outstanding Utility Bills

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s “Askıda Fatura” (Bill on the Hook) campaign has raised over 1.4 million USD in 55 hours to help more than 84,000 households struggling to pay their water and gas bills in Istanbul amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aiming to provide support for people financially burdened by the coronavirus pandemic, the campaign was launched by Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on Monday 4 May. Through http://askidafatura.ibb.gov.tr the campaign anonymously matches people with outstanding utility bills with those willing to cover the cost of these bills out of an act of solidarity. In 55 hours, the campaign generated over 1.45 million USD (10,367,307 TL) and helped 84,380 people in Istanbul pay for their water and gas bills.

“The numbers are growing by the minute! In 55 hours, $1.4M worth of unpaid utility bills in #Istanbul were anonymously covered by kind strangers, to help those financially struck by the pandemic. Let this campaign set an example for the whole world!” Mayor İmamoğlu wrote in a tweet on May 8.

Safe, anonymous and easy-to-use

While introducing the campaign, Mayor Imamoglu emphasized the campaign’s strict anonymity and said, “The hand that gives will never know the hand that receives. Istanbul is putting its mark on a historical act of solidarity. No one in this city shall remain in dire straits. We are here, and we are one.”

To prevent misuse, only bills approved through the Municipality’s means-testing mechanism are uploaded to the website.

“In Istanbul, millions of people whose livelihoods depend on precarious work have been unable to find jobs for nearly 2 months. Life is getting harder by the day. This situation shows us that we need to strengthen our solidarity. As the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, we provide food parcels, vouchers and cash assistance to tens of thousands of families each day. But there is more to life than these. People have bills they are unable to pay due to the drop in their income,” the Mayor added.

While explaining that the due dates for water bills in Istanbul had been postponed for 3 months due to the pandemic, the Mayor highlighted that in three months’ time, people would be faced with the greater burden of paying 3 months’ worth of bills. “Many citizens call the municipality to ask what they can do for their fellow citizens that are experiencing financial difficulties. ‘What can I do?’ they ask. Now, what we’re doing is pairing up burdened citizens with those who want to help,” the Mayor said.

What does “bill on the hook” mean?

The campaign borrows its name from a longstanding Turkish tradition that dates back centuries, whereby a person would go to a bakery and pay for two loaves of bread instead of one, telling the baker that the other loaf will be “on the hook”. This extra contribution would then be held alongside others, and when people unable to afford bread would come in throughout the day and ask “Is there bread on the hook?”, they would be able to get a loaf of bread for free. This way, the person paying for the extra bread on the hook would be paying it forward.

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