The American Public Power Association is urging its member utilities to reach out to their congressional delegation this week in support of legislation that would provide direct COVID-19 pandemic-related aid for public power utilities.
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 now estimates that public power utilities will lose up to $5 billion in revenue due to pandemic-related declines in load and customer arrearages.
APPA on June 22 urged its member utilities to take steps to educate lawmakers on the issue and to ask the lawmakers to join in signing a letter in support of public power being circulated by House Energy and Commerce Committee member Doris Matsui, D-Calif.
The due date for signing onto the letter is Friday, June 26, 2020.
The letter invites House members to join Matsui in encouraging House leadership to include assistance to public power providers in any upcoming coronavirus relief package.
Matsui noted that in previous coronavirus relief bills, the public power sector “has been uniquely left out of certain programs that could provide financial assistance during this hardship, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the employer payroll tax credit for qualified family leave wages.”
As an essential service, public power utilities “continue to provide electricity to customers’ homes, enabling many of us to continue working from home or enabling children to proceed with at-home learning opportunities,” Matsui said in the letter. “Moreover, most public power utilities instituted voluntary moratoriums on shutoffs for nonpayment soon after the pandemic struck, recognizing that no one should be without power during this period of unique hardship.”
Public power “is essential, but has not been treated so by previous coronavirus relief measures. Please join me in urging House Leadership to include direct assistance to public power in any future relief bill. Doing so will ensure that public power can remain solvent and prioritize reliability and affordability in the years to come,” Matsui said.
APPA recently urged Congress to provide direct aid to public power utilities
In a June 16 Statement for the Record submitted for a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that examined the impacts of the pandemic on the energy industry, APPA said that it is vital that Congress provide direct aid to community-owned utilities.
APPA also submitted a Statement for the Record for the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy June 16 hearing on COVID-19’s impact on the energy sector in which APPA discussed the impact of COVID-19 on public power utilities and the need for direct assistance for public power.