EBCE Helps Customers Struggling to Pay Bills During Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented disruptions to life in the East Bay, and all over the world. In addition to threatening public health, it has also created huge economic impacts, as many businesses and other employers have shut down or cut back operations.
For customers who are struggling to pay utility bills in this difficult time, EBCE is helping by suspending collection activities and encouraging customers to sign up for rate discount programs.
As the local community choice energy program, EBCE does not ever shut off power to customers. During normal operations, after providing notices and a grace period to non-paying customers, EBCE eventually returns these customers back to PG&E service. PG&E then has their own protocols for non-paying customers, including, ultimately, disconnecting service.
To help struggling customers, EBCE has suspended the return of non-paying customers to PG&E service and is suspending collections activities through at least May 2020.
“This is an important time to support our community and put health and safety first,” said EBCE’s CEO, Nick Chaset. “As a critical service provider for our community, EBCE is looking at ways to help those that are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.”
In addition, EBCE launched an outreach campaign on May 5 to spread the word about how low-income customers can get discounted energy bills. The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program offers a monthly discount of 35% on electricity and 20% on natural gas. The Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) program offers a monthly discount of 18% on electricity only.
Eligibility for the program is based on household income or enrollment in certain public assistance programs, and is open to recently furloughed and laid-off workers.
EBCE’s campaign includes print and digital advertising, a web page with original content, social media, targeted email, communications through city newsletters, and more. More information is available at ebce.org/care.
EBCE’s own operations have also been affected. To follow the shelter-in-place orders from the county health department, EBCE has switched to holding public meetings online, including meetings of the Board of Directors. Customers can participate in meetings via online conferencing. Details are provided prior to meetings at ebce.org/meetings/.
“Our staff continues to fulfill our duties while working from home, our call center is still available during business hours, and we are working to reduce negative impacts for our customers,” Chaset added.