April 22, 2020
What Utilities Are Doing to Support Customers During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has spared few from its devastating impact. Jobs and lives have been lost. Frontline workers are being pushed to the brink. Businesses are faltering. While the responses to this crisis have been varied, many utilities have voluntarily stepped up to support customers during these extremely difficult times. Others are cooperating with governments to abide by regulations imposed in their jurisdictions. In addition, some utilities have directed their customer service representatives to drop sales-based conversations in favor of more empathetic outreach and supportive messaging.1
Here are some of the ways utility companies are helping alleviate some of the hardships customers face today.
- Late fees – freezing late fee accruals.
- Disconnections – suspending disconnections of customers who don’t pay their bills.
- Reconnections – reconnecting previously disconnected service provided crews can do it safely.
- Payments – creating flexible payment plans.
- Energy-saving tips – sending tips to save on energy bills to reduce the financial burden on customers who have lost their jobs as well as to temper usage spikes as more people work from home.
What Are KUBRA’s Clients Doing?
PSEG Long Island temporarily suspended shutoffs of electric service to residential customers for non-payment starting on March 13. Recognizing the financial difficulties their customers may be experiencing due to illness or job loss, the company chose to halt shutoffs so that their customers had one less thing to worry about during this difficult time.
NV Energy has expanded its bill assistance program to include any vulnerable adult instead of limiting assistance to vulnerable seniors. It has also introduced a new payment plan called FlexPay which allows customers to pay what they want in advance while applying an existing deposit to their bill. Additionally, it’s suspending disconnects for non-payment, waiving deposits and late fees, and offering energy savings tips that will help customers save money on their electricity bill. NV Energy has also provided explicit guidelines to help protect their workers and the community as crews continue to respond to maintenance and repair requests.
SMECO suspended electric disconnects for non-payment on March 13, understanding the negative impact COVID-19 has had on many of their members. The utility also implemented strict travel restrictions and other precautions to help ensure the safety of its employees while continuing to provide reliable service to its members.
OUC has waived late fees and suspended service disconnects due to nonpayment until further notice. It’s also offering payment plans for those facing financial hardship and having difficulty making payments. In March, OUC closed its walk-in business center and is now encouraging customers to access their online accounts to view transactions, check usage, etc., from home or to contact them by phone for assistance.
Golden State Water is reimbursing the service fee to its retail cash payments (RCP) customers who choose to pay in-person using cash at a KUBRA EZ-PAY retail location. Due to the closure of all Golden State Water customer service offices, the utility will refund the service fee to all RCP customers. The utility is also suspending residential service disconnections for non-payment due to financial hardship.
Colorado Springs Utilities has stopped processing all disconnections through April 30, understanding that some of their customers are facing financial difficulties right now. The utility is encouraging anyone struggling to pay a bill or who receives a disconnect notice to call them immediately. They have also rolled out the Skip a Payment program which allows customers to make arrangements to skip a payment, with the amount added to future bills. All CSU facilities are to the public until at least May 4 but information on how to make a payment during the closures has been provided to customers. They are also working hard to protect their employees by having all non-essential workers work from home, opening on-site living facilities for employees, and using protective gear for employees working in the community.
Our clients have many workers on the frontlines, working in our communities to ensure that they can continue to offer the essential services we all rely on each day. We are grateful to be able to call these utilities our clients and we continue to support them in any way we can.
Source: Energy Central.