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APPA urges members to reach out to senators in support of direct pandemic-related aid

The American Public Power Association is asking its members to contact their senators this week in support of direct pandemic-related aid for public power utilities.

Staff for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee have begun drafting a loan program for public power utilities and electric cooperatives.

These loans would be forgivable to the extent that proceeds were used offset customers’ COVID-related nonpayment of their utility bill. This will provide relief to customers and needed cash liquidity to utilities.

However, the proposal will not advance without substantial and vocal support from senators on and off the committee, APPA noted.

Past legislation has provided aid that will help public power at the margins, such as Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding increases to help customers pay their bills, Coronavirus Relief Funds to state and local governments, and assistance in paying unemployment benefits for laid off workers.

But APPA estimates that public power utilities could lose up to $5 billion in revenue due to pandemic-related declines in load and customer arrearages.

The pandemic has had widely differing financial effects on the nation’s nearly 2,000 public power utilities. Some public power utilities have been affected little or almost not all, while others are facing unprecedented non-payments and dwindling cash reserves. Most are somewhere in the middle.

APPA said that this is one of the strengths of a forgivable loan program -- costs will be minimal where nonpayment is less of an issue, allowing resources to instead benefit customers in areas that have been harder hit.

APPA is therefore asking all public power utilities to reach out to their senators in support of direct aid to public power.

Specifically, APPA is asking its members to speak in support of providing public power utilities and electric cooperatives direct loans that are forgivable to the extent proceeds are used to provide customer assistance for COVID-related arrearages.