Some Companies Extending Relief, Support to Customers Impacted by COVID-19
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, utilities and energy providers across the country implemented measures to reduce the economic pressure experienced by customers impacted by the crisis. These included a hiatus on disconnections for nonpayment and late fees, many of which were extended repeatedly upon expiration as the pandemic wore on over several months.
Last week, many utilities and energy providers announced that they would be discontinuing their grace periods, and energy bills that are coming due in June would be due for payment.
While it was to be expected that disconnections for nonpayment and late fees would ultimately resume, it nevertheless comes at a bad time for customers who are still feeling economic pain as a result of the pandemic. Many of these have not yet returned to work, or have found themselves in a situation in which the job they lost won’t be coming back.
No “New Normal” Yet for Many Customers
In light of the sheer number of energy consumers who are still facing cash flow issues or are now experiencing an outright economic crisis of their own, some utilities and energy providers are either examining or implementing additional measures that are calculated to relieve their customers’ financial pressure.
Some of these have included extending the pandemic-related grace periods, crafting forgiveness programs for significant portions of energy bills that remain in arrears or a combination of both.
While the ongoing efforts of utilities and energy providers to diminish their customers’ liability and stress will certainly be welcome, these aren’t the only parties responding to the continuing economic hardships energy consumers are facing. Private-public partnerships—and money—are being engaged in order to help customers pay their energy bills.
Earlier this week, the Greater East Texas Community Action Program (GETCAP) announced that it has received $5 million in funding to help those who have experienced a reduction in income in paying their electric bills. Karen Swenson, the program’s executive director, said the funding came from the recently-passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The GETCAP effort will cover 20 counties in East Texas, and Swenson is encouraging anyone with a reduction in income to apply, citing the upcoming hot summer months that are pretty much a given in Texas.
According to Swenson, there is no need to apply in person. Eligible East Texas residents with a reduction in income can apply online at get-cap.org.