Facing financial hardships during the pandemic? Contact your local electric cooperative to discuss payment options
For many Iowa families, the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just a public health crisis – it’s also a financial crisis. To ease the financial burden on those who are experiencing decreased or lost income, Iowa’s locally owned electric cooperatives have temporarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment during the health emergency.
It’s important to note, however, the disconnect suspension is not a bill waiver or bill forgiveness. If you’re unable to pay your bill on time and in full, please contact your local electric cooperative as soon as possible to make payment arrangements.
The Iowa Office of Attorney General Tom Miller and the Iowa Utilities Board recommend consumers pay what they can to avoid problems in the future. “Customers who are able to pay should pay their utility bills, or even just a portion. That will prevent large unpaid balances and reduce the potential for service disconnection once the public health emergency has passed,” noted Consumer Advocate Jennifer Easler in a recent news release.
Not-for-profit electric cooperatives are locally owned by the consumers they serve. Through this business model, each consumer shares in the operational costs.
“It is the goal of each electric cooperative to deliver quality service without profit – service at cost, shared by its member-consumers,” said Chuck Soderberg, executive vice president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives. “This means electric cooperatives have limited reserves to sustain high levels of unpaid bills. It’s important every member-consumer has a plan in place to pay their energy bill.”
Although it hasn’t been business as usual, the focus of each electric cooperative remains on keeping its members’ lives as normal as possible. If you need assistance or would like to establish a payment plan, please contact your local electric cooperative as soon as possible. Your co-op can also help you identify simple ways to reduce your electric use which will lower your bill. We’re here for you.
Tips for managing home energy use
Iowa’s electric cooperatives encourage our member-consumers to use energy wisely. As you spend more time at home during the pandemic, you’ll likely see an increase in home energy use and bill amounts. Here are some ways to help lower your energy bill during the spring and summer months:
- Program your thermostat to maximize energy savings. Setting your thermostat even one degree lower when heating or one degree higher when cooling can reduce energy use by up to 5 percent.
- Use a ceiling fan when you’re in the room and set your thermostat a few degrees higher in warm weather to lower your electric bill. Make sure the ceiling fan is running counter-clockwise in the summer and turn off the ceiling fan when you leave the room.
- Dial down the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees or lower. This will also help prevent scalding.
- Wash only full loads of laundry and use warm or cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load’s energy use in half, and cold water can save even more.
- Air dry dishes in your dishwasher. This step can cut your dishwasher’s energy use by up to 50 percent.
- Replace incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs in frequently used fixtures. Lighting can amount to up to 12 percent of monthly energy use. LED bulbs can cut lighting costs by 75 percent.
- Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. Small appliances and electronics use energy even when not in use. When powered on, game consoles, televisions and similar electronics are responsible for up to 12 percent of energy use.
- If your electric co-op offers SmartHub or another app to track your energy consumption, use it to see if your energy efficiency efforts are working.
- Ask if your electric co-op offers budget billing or levelized billing, which will give you a predictable electric bill each month and level out seasonal cost fluctuations.
Resources to help Iowans with energy costs
Iowa’s electric cooperatives are concerned about the financial hardships many families are facing. There are several resources available to help you pay your energy bills.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): LIHEAP is a federally funded grant program that helps low-income households meet their immediate home energy needs, and the deadline to apply for eligibility has been extended to May 31, 2020. The LIHEAP fund received a sizable allocation of new federal funds as part of the coronavirus stimulus program and assistance is available through local community action outreach offices in every Iowa county. To find your local office, contact the Iowa Department of Human Rights by calling (515) 242-5655 or visit humanrights.iowa.gov/dcaa/where-apply.
Iowa 211: Calling 2-1-1 is a free and confidential service that provides Iowans with help and answers from thousands of health and human service agencies and resources in their local communities. Resources for utility bill assistance can be found by dialing 2-1-1 or visiting www.211iowa.org.
Evaluate payment options: Concern for community is a core cooperative principle, and Iowa’s electric co-ops are willing to work with member-consumers who may have trouble paying their bills. If you are experiencing financial hardships, please contact your local electric co-op to discuss payment options. Co-op staff can also suggest ways to reduce your energy use to lower your bills. Our top priority is serving our member-consumers, especially in these challenging times.
Beware of utility scams
Utility scams have increased during the pandemic as imposters take advantage of the disruptive situation to confuse consumers. Scammers may try to contact you by phone, email or text to threaten immediate disconnection if an immediate payment is not provided. Your local electric co-op would never contact you out-of-the-blue and demand immediate payment, threaten disconnection of electric service or ask for personal information like your bank account details, address or social security number. If you receive a suspicious call, text or email, please contact your local electric co-op directly to verify the communication. For more helpful tips, download the Consumer’s Guide to Imposter Utility Scams at www.utilitiesunited.org.
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