Oregon public power utility Eugene Water & Electric Board is taking steps to help residential, business and nonprofit customers maintain or re-establish good account standing and to ensure all customers have access to reliable power and safe water at affordable rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The community-owned utility on July 17 said that it is making available extended repayment plans to residential and commercial customers, including nonprofit agencies, who may be struggling to keep up with utility payments.
For residential customers, the recovery program will allow them six months to bring existing balances of up to $3,000 up to date.
Small business and nonprofit customers will be offered additional options for higher balances, including longer payback periods, the option to defer payments for up to 9 months, or to enroll in a reduced billing plan.
"During the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic, EWEB responded by implementing short-term crisis programs that allowed customers who are financially impacted to defer payments without worrying about losing electric services or accruing late fees," said Anna Wade of EWEB's Customer Solutions team. "Now, in order to be good stewards of our customers' financial resources and keep the utility operationally and financially resilient, we need to shift to measures that help customers bring their accounts up-to-date over time."
EWEB developed three plans to help customers – a basic repayment plan, an enhanced repayment and a reduced billing plan.
The basic repayment plan is available to all customers (residential, business and nonprofit) to help bring accounts up to date over time and avoid disconnection of services. EWEB noted that it can make payment arrangements that spread a past due balance of up to $3,000 over several months with fixed installments.
The enhanced repayment plan for business and nonprofit customers allows for a higher maximum balance and a potentially a longer payback period. Eligible customers can repay a past-due balance of up to four times the average monthly bill, or $20,000 over six to 24 months and defer the first payment for up to nine months.
Eligible business and nonprofit customers who are current on their EWEB account, or can bring their account current, and are seeking to free-up cash for reinvestment into their operations may apply for the reduced billing plan.
This plan allows fixed, reduced payments on future bills for the next 12 months. After 12 months, customers can choose to pay off any balance owed in one lump sum, or in fixed installments over the following 12-month period.
EWEB in mid-March temporarily suspended service disconnections and late fees for customer non-payment during the coronavirus crisis.
The utility doubled the amount of funding originally budgeted for the limited-income Customer Care bill assistance program, which provides income-eligible customers a $260 bill credit.
EWEB also launched a program to provide the $260 credit to customers who lost their jobs. Unlike other assistance programs, the job loss benefit doesn’t include an income threshold.