For many Hoosiers, the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a public health crisis – it is a growing economic crisis as well. Indiana’s electric cooperatives are temporarily suspending the disconnection of service due to non-payment and many are waiving late payment fees until Indiana’s declaration of the public health emergency for the coronavirus disease outbreak is lifted. This is one of many steps the electric cooperatives have taken to reduce stress and provide families and businesses with some certainty during an uncertain time.
“The electric cooperatives understand the important role we have with your family and in the communities we serve,” said John Gasstrom, CEO at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “We’ve been trusted community partners for more than 85 years, and it’s that community focus that drives us during this time.”
The suspension of service disconnects is meant to help electric cooperative consumers stay connected to vital services during the emergency declaration. It’s important to note, however, the disconnect suspension is not a bill waiver. If you’re unable to pay your bill on time and in full, we encourage you to contact the electric cooperative as soon as possible to make payment arrangements.
Most transactions can be completed electronically and over the phone. Some of the options offered by Indiana’s electric cooperatives include:
- SmartHub. The app is available for your mobile devices.
- Online. Visit your electric cooperative website.
- Phone. Call the electric cooperative directly.
- Mail. Send your payment to the office.
- Drop Box. Many cooperatives have a drop box outside the office.
“The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor strongly encourages consumers to continue paying their bills, even if it’s only a partial payment,” said Utility Consumer Counselor Bill Fine. “If you need to make a payment arrangement, let the utility know sooner rather than later. Speaking up now and making at least a partial payment shows the utility you are making a good-faith effort to keep your energy bill under control.”
The not-for-profit electric cooperatives are 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 consumers,” said Gasstrom. “This means electric cooperatives have limited reserves to sustain high levels of unpaid bills. It’s important every consumer has a plan in place to pay his or her energy bill.”
Although it hasn’t been business as usual, the focus of each electric cooperative remains on keeping your life 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. We’re here for you.
Tips for managing energy use during COVID-19
Indiana’s electric cooperatives encourage our consumers to use energy wisely. As you spend more time at home, you’ll see a surge in home energy use. Some steps you can take to help control your energy bill include:
- Program your thermostat to maximize energy savings. Setting your thermostat even 1 degree lower when heating or 1 one degree higher when cooling can reduce energy use by up to 5 percent.
- Wash only full loads of laundry and use 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. This step can cut your dishwasher’s energy use by up to 50 percent.
- Substitute LEDs for conventional lightbulbs. 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.
Resources to help Hoosiers with energy costs
Indiana’s electric cooperatives are aware of 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. An existing program, LIHEAP is a federally-funded grant program that helps low-income households meet their immediate home energy needs. The LIHEAP fund received a sizable allocation of new federal funds as part of the coronavirus stimulus program. LIHEAP funds are distributed through local Community Action Agencies (ACA). All Indiana counties have intake offices. To find your local office, contact the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority by calling 800.872.0371 or online for a county-by-county directory.
- Indiana 211. 2-1-1 is a free and confidential service that provides Hoosiers 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.