State Reopening Plans
Thank you to all of our NWPPA members who have shared their policies and practices concerning Coronavirus. The following is a clearinghouse of the news releases we have received this past week. We are sharing these here for your information and as a resource for anyone looking to also implement a similar practice. Please send any releases or office updates to email@example.com so we can continue to disseminate this information to our valued membership.
Chugach Electric to Reopen Lobby with Limited Entry
(April 30) Consistent with state and local guidance, Chugach Electric Association (Anchorage, Alaska) is reopening its lobby with limited entry beginning today, May 4, at 8 a.m. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and as a precautionary measure for the safety of all, Chugach closed its lobby to the public on March 17. As both the State of Alaska and the Municipality of Anchorage are now releasing guidelines and safety criteria to allow businesses to reopen or expand operations, Chugach will reopen 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays with new procedures in place.
Preparing for the reopening, Chugach has taken several steps to help ensure the health and safety of employees and members, while working to slow the spread of COVID-19.
SMUD Announces Microloan Program for Local Nonprofits and Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19
(July 17) In response to the devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on local small businesses and nonprofits, SMUD announced that it has created a COVID-19 Relief: Nonprofit Microloan Program for those who serve Sacramento’s most vulnerable communities and who may not have qualified for the federal, state, and local loan offerings.
“The pandemic has the potential to paralyze many of our underserved communities, and by supporting these essential, local nonprofits who focus directly on community services, we can fill the funding gaps and have a greater impact on our community,” said Jose Bodipo-Memba, SMUD director of Sustainable Communities.
(July 7) To help Santa Clara small businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19, Silicon Valley Power is offering grants to help fund energy efficiency upgrades. These upgrades will help lower business operating costs by reducing electric consumption. Energy efficiency projects may also have other non-energy benefits, such as reduced maintenance costs.
Energy efficiency projects that save electric energy may be eligible. Typical projects include lighting, HVAC, HVAC controls, and food service equipment upgrades. Up to $10,000 is available for eligible businesses. Projects will be funded at 100% for businesses that have been deemed as non-essential under the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department order dated March 16, 2020. For a business that has been deemed essential, 10% of the project cost must be paid for by the business.
(July 3) Out of an abundance of caution, SMUD is temporarily closing the Rancho Seco Recreational Area to day visitors effective immediately after park operator employees learned that a visitor subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. SMUD anticipates re-opening the park to day visitors on July 6.
Through extensive contact tracing, it was confirmed that no other park guests were exposed to the COVID-positive visitor.
(July 1) The Cities of Redding, Shasta Lake, and Anderson, in partnership with the Redding Chamber of Commerce, are excited to announce a special COVID-19 Relief Grant Program for Micro-Enterprise Businesses. The program is designed to provide $5,000 in grant funding to about 140 of the smallest brick and mortar businesses in the greater community – those that were likely hit the hardest during the pandemic. To qualify for the grant program, a business must have five or fewer employees, including the business owner, and must be a for-profit business that operates within Redding, Shasta Lake, or Anderson.
The program, funded by Community Development Block Grant Funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will disperse more than $750,000 in combined funding to businesses in the community. This money will help to ensure that some of the smallest local businesses will survive the COVID-19 pandemic. $682,000 will be contributed for Redding businesses, $62,000 will be contributed for Shasta Lake businesses, and funding amounts for Anderson are yet to be determined.
SMUD Limiting Rancho Seco Recreational Area During Independence Day Holiday
(June 29) SMUD is limiting access to Rancho Seco Recreational Area this Fourth of July holiday weekend to comply with capacity and social distancing restrictions mandated by state government due to COVID-19.
SMUD is restricting access to only 100 day-use vehicles and anticipates quickly reaching capacity and then closing the park, probably around 9 a.m. on July 3, 4, and 5. Folks who make the trip may be disappointed to learn that the park is full and closed when they arrive.
(May 28) In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and growing economic challenges, SMUD (Sacramento, Calif.) announced it will extend the suspension of disconnecting power due to non-payment for residential and commercial customers until January 4, 2021.
“Our commitment to the community remains strong through tough financial times,” said Arlen Orchard, CEO and general manager of SMUD. “Because of the impact that this pandemic is having on our community, we want to ensure that our most vulnerable customers have access to power during these times.”
(April 28) At its meeting on April 27, the city of Alameda’s Public Utilities Board unanimously decided not to increase electric rates for all AMP customers. The board voted to maintain the existing rates for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2020.
Due to the utility’s strong financial outlook, the board decided not to raise electric rates during a time when AMP customers are experiencing the economic impacts of COVID-19. AMP had earlier expected to propose a rate increase of up to 2% due to increases in purchased power costs and increased transmission costs, and other operating expenses such as labor and strategic plan initiatives.
(April 7) In order to alleviate some of the financial burden caused by the current pandemic, LMUD has allocated funds to help customers who have suffered a decrease in wages due to circumstances caused by COVID-19 response.
The program offers financial assistance to households whose income has been decreased by at least 30% on or after March 25, 2020 due to lay-offs, reduction in working hours and business closures. Once qualified, funds will be applied directly to the customers electric bill.
(April 2) In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and growing economic challenges, SMUD (Sacramento, Calif.) announced it will extend the suspension of disconnecting power due to non-payment for residential and commercial customers until May 30.
“We made this decision due to the impact that COVID-19 is having on our local communities,” said Arlen Orchard, CEO and general manager of SMUD. “We want to ensure that our most vulnerable customers have access to power during these times.”
The suspension of power disconnection due to non-payment began March 13 and will last through May 30, as SMUD continues to monitor the evolving situation.
(March 27) In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and growing economic challenges, SMUD announced it will extend the suspension of disconnecting power due to non-payment for residential and commercial customers until April 17.
“We made this decision due to the impact that COVID-19 is having on our local communities,” said Arlen Orchard, CEO and general manager of SMUD. “We want to ensure that our most vulnerable customers have access to power during these times.”
(March 19) Placer County Water Agency (Auburn, Calif.) released the following statement today regarding Agency operations in response to Placer County guidance on COVID-19:
“Following the ‘shelter in place’ directive issued today by Placer County, PCWA is transitioning to modified operations for employees and customers. Deliveries of drinking water will not be impacted by these modified operations and continue to meet all state and federal drinking water standards. Canal water deliveries will also not be affected.”
(March 18) In response to the escalating concerns about public safety and the COVID-19 pandemic, SMUD (Sacramento, Calif.) is closing all buildings to the public and will handle all customer business online at SMUD.org and via phone channels. Most importantly though, while SMUD buildings will be closed to the public, all SMUD outage response levels remain unchanged and all functions necessary to run the power system will operate as normal.
The building closures are effective immediately through at least April 17 and include SMUD’s Customer Service Center and lobby at 6301 S Street, Headquarters building, and East Campus-Operations Center.
(March 16) In an effort to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19, Placer County Water Agency (Auburn, Calif.) announced today that it is closing its business center lobbies until further notice. PCWA staff remains available to assist customers via telephone or electronic mail (e-mail).
(March 11) To minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for SMUD employees and the public, effective immediately, SMUD (Sacramento, Calif.) has postponed all non-essential meetings with more than 50 participants and limited employee participation at external events to essential staff only. The restrictions will be in place until at least April 8 due to coronavirus concerns.
SMUD has been monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) issue closely and, in line with other large companies, has taken steps to minimize the risk of exposure for our employees and for the public. The situation is evolving quickly and SMUD continues to monitor developments and advice from public health officials to put in place measures to minimize risks to our employees, the public and our operations. This latest measure follows restriction of non-critical employee travel that SMUD implemented February 28.
EWEB to Offer $200,000 in Assistance Funding in August for Customers Impacted by the Pandemic
(July 30) The Eugene Water & Electric Board will double the amount of funding available in August for its bill assistance programs; this is the fourth time since April the utility has increased funding to support customers during the pandemic
So far in 2020, EWEB has provided more than $1.2 million in bill assistance to 4,560 customers. During the same period in 2019, EWEB provided $450,000 in assistance to 2,240 customers. The utility initially budgeted $100,000 for August, but then decided to double that amount to provide more relief for assistance programs which became available on August 3. In August 2019, by comparison, EWEB distributed $60,750 in bill assistance.
EWEB Expands Payment Plan Programs to Help Customers Through Pandemic
(July 17) The 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.
The community-owned utility 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.
OTEC Jumpstarts Economic Recovery with 360-Degree, Virtual Reality Videos
(July 13) Eastern Oregon is a popular vacation destination and tourism is one of the top three industries for the four-county area that Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (Baker City, Ore.) serves. The cooperative, along with providing safe and reliable electric service for the area, is involved with economic development and they know that local businesses are hurting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, the cooperative already has a project in progress that’s going to jumpstart economic development and attract future visitors: virtual tours with 360-degree video and virtual reality.
“The lack of tourism is really hurting a lot of our businesses, so we’re looking at that impact and how to help them,” said Lea Gettle, manager of administration and strategic services for OTEC. “Because we already started our PlaceVR projects, we can offer people an experience online, just like all of the big museums and tourist attractions are doing.”
(July 7) We’re taking steps to help residential, business, and non-profit customers maintain or re-establish good account standing and ensure all customers have access to reliable power and water at affordable rates.
We recognize this is a challenging time for many residents and businesses, and some may be struggling to keep up with utility payments. As a community-owned, nonprofit utility, we have always worked with our customers in crisis, and this time is no different.
BPA Offers Rate Relief to Customers Hit Economically by Pandemic
(June 29) The Bonneville Power Administration issued today a decision to suspend its financial reserves surcharge through September 2021.“This decision is the result of a strong collaborative partnership with our customers,” said BPA Administrator and CEO Elliot Mainzer. “The steps we have taken in recent years to sustain BPA’s financial health make it possible for us to provide some measure of relief to our power customers as they work to address the economic consequences of the pandemic.”
UEC and HES Work with Amazon Web Services to Support the Umatilla-Morrow Community
(June 22) Today, Umatilla Electric Cooperative and Hermiston Energy Services announced they are working with Amazon Web Services to donate funds to support local electric utility customers, food banks, and students impacted by COVID-19.
As a not-for-profit, member-owned company, UEC operates at cost, with net operating revenues, or margins, returned to its customers in the form of cash refunds via the capital credits program. Under this program, which applies to all UEC utility customers, AWS was eligible for a patronage refund and is working with UEC and HES to donate those funds back to the local community.
(April 27) Due to concern for the health and well-being of our member-owners and the communities we serve during the COVID-19 pandemic and following federal and state guidelines barring gatherings of large groups, Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative’s (Baker City, Ore.) 2020 Annual Meeting, scheduled for Saturday, May 30, will be held virtually at 10:30 a.m.
The OTEC board president will preside at the meeting and conduct business as necessary.
Clatskanie PUD Employees & Board Directors Personally Donate $11,400 to Local Food Banks
(April 16) The Clatskanie PUD (Ore.) staff and board participated in an internal fundraiser to help the two local food banks, Turning Point in Clatskanie and HOPE in Rainier. They personally donated $11,400 which will be divided equally between the two organizations. This is the largest fundraiser they have ever achieved, with 100% participation of the employees and board directors, and it more than doubled their highest amount from previous food bank fundraisers.
The employees and board directors wanted to find a way to give back in a big way to support the communities they serve. The Clatskanie PUD staff and board really stepped up to make the food drive a success, and help those in need during this challenging time!
Central Lincoln PUD Creates Extra eNewsletter to Help Employees Stay Connected
(April 13) Central Lincoln PUD (Newport, Ore.) has added a bi-weekly enewsletter to help employees stay in touch with one another since many indoor workers are working from home, or partially from home, and the utility’s employees are spread out over nearly 700 square miles of territory and beyond. Various departments share bulleted items about what they are doing and opportunities employees need to know about, such as the utility’s food drives and CLPUD’s Job Loss Assistance program to help the unemployed with their bills. Now that Central Lincoln employees are wearing masks at work to help slow the spread of Covid-19, they are welcome to submit selfies to an online gallery (https://clpud.smugmug.com/Mask-Up-/) and that has been a popular site. General Manager Randy Grove, who is wearing the OSU-themed mask in the gallery, sends the new enewsletter out twice a week to all employees.
“HUGE thanks to the volunteers who spent hours sewing masks for our employees throughout the District! When the CDC issued the recommendation that everyone mask up before coming into contact with people outside their households, these folks jumped in and started mass mask production,” Grove wrote in a recent enewsletter. “In the northern half of our District, our mask makers included Kay Chambers, wife of our board member Jim Chambers; and other volunteers, including a teacher at Toledo High School. In the southern portion, we were helped by our Journeyman Lineman Bo Green’s sister Lindsay Green; volunteers from Operations Supervisor Greg Carter’s church; and an instructional assistant who works with special needs students.”
(April 3) Eugene Water & Electric Board Commissioners will hold their monthly meeting on Tuesday via telephone to adhere to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” executive order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. To comply with the governor’s order, there will be no in-person attendance at the virtual meeting.
Members of the public wishing to provide comments regarding EWEB business are invited to do so by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “public comment.” All public input will be reviewed by commissioners and executive staff. Written testimony of 200 words or less will be read into the public record, and all testimony will be summarized in the meeting minutes. Those interested should submit comments by 4:30 p.m. on April 7.
More information here.
(April 1) Today, the PUD Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution to postpone a rate increase until May 2021.
On February 4, 2020, the Northern Wasco County PUD (The Dalles, Ore.) Board of Directors approved a rate increase to become effective with May 2020 bills. Due the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board convened in a special session today to re-visit that decision.
(March 18) Salem Electric (Ore.) is closely monitoring information from the Centers for Disease Control, and federal, state, and local agencies regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). For the health and safety of the communities we serve, Salem Electric has temporarily closed the office lobby to the public until further notice. Representatives are still available by phone or email during regular business hours.
To further support members impacted by COVID-19, Salem Electric is temporarily suspending late fees and disconnects. If a member is having difficulty paying their bill in full or on time, we encourage them to contact us at (503) 362-3601 to set up a payment plan. Those who need additional financial assistance may qualify for our Winter Heating Assistance Program. To learn more, visit SalemElectric.com.
(March 17) OTEC (Baker City, Ore.) is closely monitoring the developments of the coronavirus COVID-19 and continuing to take precautions to protect the public and our employees. For the health and safety of the communities we serve, OTEC will be closing its four offices in Baker City, La Grande, John Day, and Burns to the public on Tuesday, March 17, at 5 p.m. The offices will remain closed to walk-in traffic until further notice. The drive-through window at our La Grande district office will remain open. Appointments for in-person business will be available by calling (541) 523-3616.
To further the support for our members impacted during this time, OTEC is temporarily suspending late fees and disconnections. Please call our offices at (541) 523-3616 if you are having difficulty paying your electric bill, we will work with you to set up a payment plan. Your cooperative will continue to evaluate other ways to support our members for the duration of this quickly evolving public health emergency.
(March 16) In an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Eugene Water & Electric Board will close its Customer Service lobby to the public starting Tuesday, March 17.
This decision follows a great deal of deliberation, and was made to protect employees and customers by reducing the risk of contracting and/or transmitting the virus. EWEB’s first priority is keeping customers and employees safe and well-informed while minimizing the spread of the coronavirus.
(March 12) The developing COVID-19 outbreak in Washington and Oregon has prompted federal officials to adjust two scheduled public comment meeting for the recently released Columbia River System Operation draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration decided that the in-person public comment meetings planned for Seattle and Portland will not be held due to the high number of COVID-19 cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in those geographical areas and calls from local officials to limit public exposure.
Details on when and how to call into the phone sessions will be posted at www.crso.info. The agencies will continue to monitor the public health situation and make further adjustments as needed. The public is encouraged to monitor the website for any updates.
The draft EIS is available for public review online at https://cdxnodengn.epa.gov/cdx-enepa-II/public/action/eis/search (EPA’s searchable EIS database) or www.crso.info.
Rock Island: A World of Connection
(July 31) Rock Island and OPALCO (Eastsound, Wash.) have once again partnered up to help islanders in need during the pandemic. OPALCO has expanded its Energy Assist program to provide monthly bill credits to residential and commercial members in need, and Rock Island offers a $25/month bill credit for customers on OPALCO’s Energy Assist Program (show your power bill to get the credit). This spring, Rock Island applied for a USDA Distance Learning Grant to install remote-learning facilities to support teachers and share teaching resources in every middle- and high-school classroom in SJC. Grant awards will be announced at year end. Currently, more than 100 households county-wide are connected to free internet service for online schooling through Rock Island’s Access Education program.
The collective investment of partners and subscribers in this project has already significantly moved our community toward true world connectivity, but the work isn’t done until all islanders can enjoy a success story. What services do you need to protect your family, your business, or your health? For a state-of-the-art fiber connection, go to rockisland.com/getfiber to fill out the online fiber request form. You can now finance a fiber connection on your OPALCO bill through our Switch It Up! program. If you are a subscriber and are experiencing any difficulties, please reach out to the support team at email@example.com.
OPALCO COVID Update
(July 24) Since March, OPALCO has helped more than 450 members pay their bills. Other members have given generously to the member assistance programs, donating solar production credits or directly to the low-income programs. Many other members have benefited by not accruing fees or being disconnected for non-payment during these difficult times.
OPALCO is closely monitoring member requests for assistance and payment arrears during the pandemic. They are digging deep to put any and all available resources into helping members pay their power bills.
Hispanic Leaders Addressed COVID-19 Crisis
(June 26) Hispanic leaders from across the state, Franklin PUD, and the Benton-Franklin Health District have partnered to address the COVID-19 crisis affecting the Latino community in Benton and Franklin counties. On June 29, the speakers encouraged people to wear masks, encouraged social distancing, and educated residents on the health risks of COVID-19.
The goal is to encourage mask wearing and good social distancing practices in the Hispanic community. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly through the Hispanic community for various reasons. Many are essential workers, thousands are part of the agricultural industry, and many come from large families where social distancing is a challenge. We are not blaming the Hispanic community for the spread. Everyone must do their part to defeat COVID-19.
More information available here.
Chelan PUD and Community Partners Are Hosting Drive-Thru Event in Wenatchee
(June 15) Chelan County families can get help with everything from paying their utility bill to finding fun things to do with kids during summer break at a “Resource Drive” on Saturday, June 27. The drive-thru event is noon to 2:30 p.m. in the Town Toyota Center parking lot, 1300 Walla Walla Ave., Wenatchee.
Chelan County PUD is teaming up with community partners for the first-time event. Free resources will range from tips for customers to help save energy and lower power bills to a take-home box of fun activities to help children fill summer vacation hours. Chelan PUD customers will receive a “care package,” from their hometown utility.
(June 1) Grant PUD (Ephrata, Wash.) reopened our campgrounds and many other day-use amenities earlier today.
Many of the amenities have been modified in accordance with guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Grant County Health District to promote social distancing and protect public health.
(May 8) At a time when staying connected is more important than ever, the Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) is teaming together with cities, schools, and a large group of state and independent agencies to provide free access to the PUD fiber network. Using mobile hotspots, free Wi-Fi access will be provided at strategic points around Grays Harbor County. Users can simply drive-up or walk-up to the sites and immediately have online access for business, school, and a host of other needs.
“Today more than ever, internet access is a critical part of our lives and a way to keep connected to family, schools, and businesses. However not everyone has the same level of access, especially in rural Washington. Mobile sites like these will help to change that,” said PUD Core Services Director Rob Hanny, whose office oversees the PUD Telecommunications Department.
Jefferson County PUD Refunds Deposits to Help with COVID Crisis
(May 7) The Jefferson County PUD (Port Townsend, Wash.) Board of Commissioners approved a resolution at their May 5 regular meeting that provides a one-time refund of all PUD residential customer deposits.
According to PUD General Manager Kevin Streett, the PUD collects deposits from new electric customers who have medium to poor credit, no credit, or who do not want a credit check performed. Depending on the customer’s credit score, a deposit of either $100-$200 is collected at the time the account is created. Deposits are generally refunded a year later if the customer shows prompt payment of all bills during that period.
(May 7) Grant PUD is pleased to announce that our boat launches and most recreation areas will open at noon, May 8.
We thank everyone for your patience as we work together to safely reopen our recreation facilities.
Mason 1’s GM Participates in National Panel
(May 5) Public Utilities Fortnightly and American Public Power Association CEO Joy Ditto asked Mason County PUD No. 1 (Potlatch, Wash.) General Manager Kristin Masteller to participate in a recent online panel. Masteller represented the Pacific Northwest and discussed Mason 1’s response to COVID-19.
Click here to watch the full video.
Columbia REA Contributes $10,000 to the Fight Against COVID-19
(May 4) Columbia REA (Walla Walla, Wash.) has partnered with the Providence St. Mary Foundation to help strengthen its community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Columbia REA will donate $10,000 to the Foundation for the ongoing response to the coronavirus outbreak, and more specifically, to help fund the continuation of the Community Health Worker program, which is part of the Population Health service line operated by Providence St. Mary Medical Center/Providence Medical Group.
(May 1) Klickitat PUD (Goldendale, Wash.) has concerns about the impacts on our community due to the COVID-19 crisis and state-mandated business closures. In the interest of public safety and regional economic stability, improving access to energy assistance for COVID-19 affected customers is a priority.
Klickitat PUD commissioners recognized the lack of energy assistance available specifically for small businesses and asked staff to work on a proposal to address this need. In coordination with Klickitat County Economic Development (KCED), staff began to develop a COVID-19 Small Business Customer Assistance Program. KPUD commissioners approved implementation of the program at their meeting on April 28. The intent of the program is to take reasonable action to mitigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our small business utility customers. The program extends discounts to impacted small businesses depending on business type. It is intended to encourage appropriate reopening of businesses that are struggling to keep the lights on due to this crisis, or have had to close their doors due to state mandates.
(April 29) The “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order in Washington state has many people using more energy in their homes than normal. You can take control of your power use.
With families following the advice to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” many may see higher energy consumption, which means higher electricity bills. While it’s not surprising that more people at home for longer periods of time leads to more energy use, there are ways to keep it under control.
(May 1) Inslee is extending the “stay home, stay healthy” order through May 31. The order will be rolled back in four phases, spaced about three weeks apart.
The following ten counties (many of which are served by NWPPA member utilities) will be allowed to apply for a variance, which means they can open faster than others: Columbia, Garfield, Jefferson, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Wahkiakum, Kittitas, Ferry, and Grays Harbor.
(May 1) Chelan County PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) is partnering with local internet service providers (ISPs) to create free Wi-Fi access points known as “hotspots” at locations across the county.
Working with community organizations to identify sites, the PUD and LocalTel launched the first set of hotspots last week.
(May 1) Grant PUD (Ephrata, Wash.) is evaluating when it can reopen its recreation sites, which were closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grant PUD operates 20 recreation sites on the Columbia River. During the pandemic, the utility is placing the highest priority on keeping its mission critical systems functioning. These systems include safely operating our dams to provide power generation, manage river flows and accommodate fish passage, as well as delivering power to our customers, and operating our fiber optic network.
(April 30) Okanogan County PUD (Okanogan, Wash.) will install 15 free drive-in hotspots throughout the county, especially for students working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Director of Power Resources and Broadband Services Ron Gadeberg shared basics of the plan at the April 27 board of commissioners meeting. Working with schools, the PUD has identified the 15 locations based on current availability on the district’s network and the local need for access.
(April 29) We are all in this together. OPALCO (Eastsound, Wash.) is very concerned about how its members are getting along during this pandemic and is digging deep to put any and all available resources into helping members to pay their power bills. The board approved additional relief measures at their regular meeting on Thursday, April 23—and there’s something for everyone.
Power and broadband are essential services—especially critical during this great disruption. OPALCO is doing all it can to help, without putting the viability of the co-op at risk.
(April 29) Tacoma’s Public Utility Board and City Council approved additional funding for Tacoma Public Utilities’ (Wash.) Emergency Assistance Program, a relief program established on March 17 in response to the COVID-19 State of Emergency. Since the program launched with $1 million in funding, nearly 10,000 TPU residential customers have applied for the funds, prompting the decision to increase the total funding provided to $2.4 million.
“When we started this program, our goal was to help community members struggling with financial hardship during this emergency,” said Jackie Flowers, director of Tacoma Public Utilities. “In addition to quickly establishing the Emergency Assistance Program, we also extended payment plans, stopped disconnections, and can waive late fees.”
(April 24) In response to an urgent need for internet access points in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lewis County PUD (Chehalis, Wash.) is partnering with ToledoTel, a local and family-owned telecom and broadband provider, to establish six strategically located wireless internet access points in the community. The six Wi-Fi hotspots will be free and open to the public. The locations chosen for these access points were based on utilizing existing broadband infrastructure and an analysis of data by the Center on Rural Innovation which identified the areas of the county with low levels of student internet connectivity.
(April 23) Franklin PUD (Pasco, Wash.) Broadband is offering free Wi-Fi hotspots so teachers and students can have access to high speed internet. The hotspots are now up and running.
“The goal is to reach kids and families who may not have internet access or who don’t have fast enough internet speeds needed to complete homework during the COVID-19 distance learning. We hope to continue expanding hotspots across the county. The signal can travel up to an 800-foot radius. It’s a very strong signal so users can stream video and perform most tasks you would at home,” said Ben Hooper, Franklin PUD’s broadband manager.
(April 20) Mason PUD 3 (Shelton, Wash.) has been working with community partners to make sure every student in Mason County has a safe place where they can use a free high-speed Wi-Fi hotspot to access classwork, download assignments, and communicate with their teacher.
PUD 3 teamed up with fire districts, port districts, community halls, Mason County parks, and others to identify locations for the hotspots where these locations have existing and nearby PUD fiber-optic equipment. The sites will be all over Mason County, from the Tahuya Peninsula to Matlock, and many places in between. Wireless equipment is on order and will be installed in the coming weeks.
(April 13) Internet access is more important than ever. Jefferson County PUD (Port Townsend, Wash.) is working to add Wi-Fi hotspots around the county in the next few weeks to help those without access to internet at home to have locations to go where they can connect to internet from their cars.
Our first and test hotspot is located outside our customer service office at 210 Four Corners Rd. We also have a Wi-Fi hotspot setup at our Chimacum Substation on Chimacum Rd. across from the Keg & I. We opened the gates at the road to make it easy to access the lot.
(April 15) Chelan County PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) is partnering with local internet service providers to create Wi-Fi access points (known as hotspots) across the county to offer free internet access. This is to help people who are coping with the impacts of the coronavirus crisis and the need for students to continue learning while schools are physically closed.
Three service providers have confirmed participation, and the plan is to have the first active hotspots in place within seven to 14 days.
Mason PUD 1 Partners with Local Businesses for Supplies
(April 13) Mason County PUD No. 1 (Potlatch, Wash.) has found a new partner in its battle to protect utility workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hardware Distillery company in downtown Hoodsport has shifted their business model from producing craft spirits like whiskey and gin, to the production of hand sanitizer for the Mason County community. Jan and Chuck Morris, owners of the distillery, say they intentionally limit the offering of their product to Mason County to ensure that the limited resources are put to good use in their own community.
To keep their utility personnel working and safe, PUD 1, along with other essential businesses, are competing with the rest of Mason County’s shoppers for supplies, such as hand sanitizer, face masks, rubbing alcohol, bleach, disinfectant wipes, and, of course, toilet paper. Lead by the efforts of PUD 1 Purchasing Agent Rich Crump and Treasurer Katie Arnold, the PUD has been working creative angles and leveraging longtime relationships with suppliers and retail managers to procure the supplies the District needs to continue operating. When the opportunity came to partner with The Hardware Distillery company to purchase sanitizer locally in Hoodsport, it seemed like a perfect match.
(April 13) Chelan County PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) commissioners on Monday unanimously voted to delay for six months the adopted rate increase that was scheduled to go into effect on June 1.
The action means residential electric, water, and wastewater rates stay the same until December 1, 2020. The wholesale fiber rate increase also is postponed for six months.
(March 26) Public Utility District No. 1 of Pend Oreille County (Newport, Wash.) has installed several free community Wi-Fi hotspots. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the PUD launched this effort to help those in the community gain internet access. With businesses, restaurants, and public facilities closed, the options for customers to connect are currently limited. The PUD hopes to help bring connectivity to students and those community members that otherwise don’t have access.
(April 3) Thank you to everyone helping to keep us going during this time! We appreciate all that you do!
Watch the video here.
(April 2) The OPALCO (Eastound, Wash.) crew is still at work keeping the power on, while practicing safety precautions.
On March 20, the board approved waiving late fees and has added funding to our payment assistance programs to support our membership. Through May 20, no one will be disconnected for an unpaid balance, but members are still responsible for paying their bills, eventually. For those in danger of unpaid bill balances building up, or businesses that have temporarily closed, please fill out a COVID-19 relief form and call us at (360) 376-3500 to set up a payment plan.
(April 1) Just over three weeks after the Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the utility is making adjustments to assist customers impacted by the virus.
On Wednesday, the board met in emergency session to pass a resolution which will give General Manager Dave Ward the authority to expand the use of the PUD’s existing assistance programs and practices. Thus far they have included the waiving of late fees, the use of donated Project Help dollars to assist customers, and delaying the disconnection of power on delinquent accounts. In addition, the utility has chosen to delay a projected 2% rate increase that was to have gone into effect on May 1st.
(March 31) Chelan County PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) commissioners on Monday spent considerable time talking about the implications of the coronavirus crisis for the District and directed staff to take the following actions:
- Prepare a resolution to postpone the adopted rate increase that was scheduled to go into effect on June 1 for action at the next board meeting on April 13
- Prepare to discuss on April 13 extending no shutoffs of utility service and waiving of late fees past April 27
- Consider whether the PUD can do more to support residential and small business customers who are being negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis
(March 27) Klickitat PUD (Goldendale, Wash.) employees are still at work during the current health crisis. Ensuring that customers have access to electric, water, and wastewater services is a critical function not just now but going forward as well. Keeping these services available requires KPUD staff to remain healthy and able to work.
As new recommendations and requirements are released regarding COVID-19, Klickitat PUD continues to evaluate the best ways to keep employees safe and healthy. With that in mind, KPUD has developed work plans with employees that include telecommuting or modified work schedules for many positions. These plans are being implemented to make sure that the essential work KPUD employees do can be completed while reducing the potential for infection.
(March 27) With a focus on keeping its employees and customers safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, Snohomish County PUD (Everett, Wash.) has temporarily suspended reading meters and paused sending meter readers into the field. The delivery of critical power and water services remains unaffected.
As a result, PUD residential and small business customers may temporarily receive an estimated bill rather than one based on an accurate read. The PUD has made significant strides in recent years to improve its estimation accuracy. Estimated bills now draw on both prior usage patterns and known weather conditions to predict customer usage during the month their meter was not read.
(March 26) Grant PUD (Ephrata, Wash.) has made the difficult decision to close all its parks, campsites, boat launches, and other recreation areas and facilities until further notice as an added measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
This latest measure is consistent with the March 25 announcement by Washington State Parks and the state departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife to close all wildlife access areas, water access areas, parks, and recreational fishing statewide at least through April 8.
(March 25) With the issuance of Proclamation 20-28 from Gov. Jay Inslee, Klickitat PUD (Goldendale, Wash.) has been directed to hold public meetings that are accessible to the public via telephone or other electronic means rather than as an in-person meeting.
This process had already been put in place with the KPUD commissioner meeting on March 24. Future KPUD commissioner meetings will be accessible in a similar manner.
(March 25) Select amenities at Grant PUD’s (Ephrata, Wash.) recreation areas are restricted from public use until further notice. This includes the closure of all restroom facilities, picnic shelters, playground equipment, and the golf course at Crescent Bar. Boat launches, trails, and day-use areas, including parking, will remain accessible to the public.
The closures follow Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.
Benton PUD Continues to Provide Critical Service During Stay Home Stay Healthy Order
(March 25) During the Governor’s Stay Home Stay Healthy Order, Benton PUD (Kennewick, Wash.) will continue to provide customer service by phone and our operations team will continue to respond to outages 24/7.
Thanks to our strategic investments in technology and our ongoing commitment to plan and prepare for emergency situations of all kinds, Benton PUD is well-positioned to meet the challenge of current events. In accordance with our pandemic plan developed nearly 10 years ago, we have maximized our telecommuting capabilities to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our administrative and technical staff while still providing a high level of over-the-phone customer service. Our line crews, warehouse workers, and other essential operational staff are on rotating schedules to limit individual worker interactions and to help ensure we have a healthy workforce available at all times to respond to outages and to be responsive to new service connection requests.
To help provide customers some relief during these difficult and uncertain times, the Benton PUD Board of Commissioners has adopted temporary changes to our customer service policies. These changes, which apply to all customer classes, will be in place through the end of April and will be re-evaluated at that time.
(March 25) In response to Governor Inslee’s “stay home, stay healthy” order for Washington state, Benton REA (Prosser, Wash.) is committed to the health and safety of its employees as well as maintaining electric and internet service for its members.
As an electricity distribution cooperative and communications/IT provider, Benton REA and PowerNET will remain in operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, since the services the co-op provides are considered to be critical infrastructure.
(March 23) Energy Northwest (Richland, Wash.) CEO Brad Sawatzke told employees Monday that all non-essential workers are not to report for work on site effective tomorrow morning, Tuesday, March 24 as an evolution of the agency’s COVID-19 pandemic response measures.
Employees who previously volunteered to work from home should continue to do so, and those non-essential employees who are able to work from home should begin doing so tomorrow. The EN leadership team will evaluate conditions on a daily basis; however, the initial plan is for this arrangement to remain in effect until approximately April 6.
(March 23) Chelan PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) employees want customers to know they do listen to voicemail. With most Customer Service employees telecommuting—in line with health experts’ advice—please do leave us a message if you get voicemail when calling in.
Customer Service employees are taking calls, checking messages, and will respond as quickly as possible, said Sarah DeLozier, Customer Service supervisor.
(March 23) In a time of crisis, the willingness of a community to lend a hand is never more important. As the Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) helps customers in need cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reminding its customers of an opportunity to help those struggling to pay their monthly power bill.
“For several years, the PUD’s customers have made donations to the Project Help program to help their neighbors and community members during difficult financial times. It is times like these that this assistance can really make a difference in our customer’s lives,” said Customer Service Director Katy Moore. “We want our customers to know how they may make donations so we can continue to help those in need.”
(March 23) In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Snohomish County PUD (Everett, Wash.) has developed a COVID Community Support Plan to help customers struggling to pay their electric and water bills. The plan makes funds available for both residential and small business customers affected by the COVID outbreak.
“We know these are challenging times for some of our customers and we want to ensure that we are helping support those that need help,” said John Haarlow, Snohomish PUD CEO/GM. “We are all in this together and as a provider of a critical service we play an important role, one which we take seriously.”
(March 20) Chelan County PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) Parks Manager Ryan Baker said Friday that staff are making a few changes in operations to protect visitors and employees and to help reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
In the meantime, PUD-operated parks remain open including trails, boat launches, and restrooms, which are being cleaned more often to reduce health risks.
(March 20) Keeping the lights on and providing customer service remain the priorities for the Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) as the utility adapts to the new reality of business amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
“Utility crews continue to maintain the PUD system and respond to outages and our customer service office has changed some practices but continue to work with our customers,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “The utility will adapt to this new reality and continue to provide the critical services our customers expect.”
(March 20) The OPALCO (Eastsound, Wash.) Board of Directors suspended late fees on member bills and service disconnects to support members affected by COVID-19 effective immediately and for the next 60 days. A full COVID-19 program is quickly being developed to ensure reliable power delivery in the islands as disruptions and human impacts multiply and to address longer-term challenges.
“OPALCO is doing all we can to help our membership,” said Foster Hildreth, general manager. “We’re working with our local organizations and on all levels (county, state, and the federal government), looking for additional resources to bring to our communities and ways to maximize the benefits to our members. The board has dedicated restricted funding to help our members through the pandemic.”
(March 19) Chelan County PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) is taking more steps to help customer-owners manage financial and social impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. General Manager Steve Wright announced Thursday that there will be no power, water, or sewer service disconnects, and that late payment fees also will be waived until further notice.
Chelan PUD’s first priority is to keep delivering essential utility services, Wright said. That effort supports the work by other community leaders and public health experts to protect the community and help lower the risks faced by all.
(March 19) Grant PUD (Ephrata, Wash.) urges customers having difficulties paying their power bills to call its customer service line at (509) 766-2505 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By calling, customer service representatives will be able to discuss resources and options for assistance with bills.
“The worst thing a customer can do is avoid calling us when they are having difficulty paying their Grant PUD bill,” said Terry McKenzie, Grant PUD’s senior manager of Customer Service. “We want to work with our customers and help them, especially in this time when we know so many people are struggling.”
(March 18) In response to growing health and economic concerns due to COVID-19, the Lewis County PUD (Chehalis, Wash.) Board of Commissioners, comprised of Ben Kostick, Tim Cournyer, and Ed Rothlin, directed staff to reduce customer bills by up to $1.2 million.
Kostick said, “Our PUD is a community-driven organization. We’ve been tightening our belt and making strategic investments that allow us to offer this relief during a time when our customers need it most.”
(March 17) The Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) Board of Commissioners has passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency as the utility deals with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commissioners approved the resolution at a special board meeting on Tuesday that allows General Manager Dave Ward to take “appropriate and legal action to ensure the health and safety of utility employees and the public.”
“The goal of this resolution is to allow for swift and necessary action to protect utility staff and ensure our ability to provide critical utility services to the public,” said Board President Russ Skolrood. “The severity of the situation calls for the board to undertake unprecedented measures to ensure a safe environment, a healthy staff, and our ability to serve our customers.”
(March 17) Energy Northwest (Richland, Wash.) continues to monitor the evolving COVID-19 developments that our community and nation are experiencing. Our first priority remains the safety and well-being of our employees and the public. We are following the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Washington state Department of Health and have a robust pandemic procedure in place. While we currently have no challenges to maintaining operations of our generating facilities, we are taking rigorous actions to ensure we continue to provide essential electricity to the region during this challenging time.
As of now, Energy Northwest non-essential employees are able to voluntarily telecommute as their jobs allow, and we have processes to keep them informed and productively engaged.
(March 17) In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, effective March 18, all Douglas PUD (East Wenatchee, Wash.) facilities will be closed to the public until further notice. Douglas PUD provides essential utility services to our community. We take our responsibility seriously and want to minimize possible exposure to our employees and customers.
The utility will maintain regular staffing and hours with customer service being provided through the drive-up, telephone communications, online, and mobile device access. Utility operations crews will continue field work and respond to power outages and will continue to make power restorations in the safest and quickest manner possible. The March 23 commission meeting will be conducted through conference call. Please see the Draft Agenda posted on our website the Friday before the meeting under Latest News for details.
(March 17) Chelan County PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) commissioners on Monday reviewed actions being taken to respond to the risk of coronavirus spreading in the community.
General Manager Steve Wright gave a detailed update on the steps being taken to protect customers and employees during the coronavirus pandemic. Following last week’s decision to close office lobbies and public meeting rooms, Wright outlined this week’s focus.
(March 17) Access to campsites at Grant PUD’s (Ephrata, Wash.) five campgrounds is closed until further notice as a precaution against the threat of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Grant PUD provides 20 recreation areas for the public along or near the Columbia River. Five of the utility’s recreation areas offer overnight camping for visitors.
The impacted recreation areas include Crescent Bar, Rocky Coulee, Sand Hollow, Priest Rapids Recreation Area, and the Jackson Creek Fish Camp.
(March 16) Due to recent state declarations to minimize the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the Okanogan County PUD (Okanogan, Wash.) offices will be closed to the public on March 17 until further notice.
We ask that customers use alternate methods of payment.
(March 13) Due to public health concerns regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) Franklin PUD (Pasco, Wash.) will close to the public. Franklin PUD provides an essential service to our community and recognize that keeping everyone healthy is important in the continuance of providing that service.
Beginning Tuesday, March 17, we will close our walk-in customer service area, including the use of our auditorium, to help minimize the health risks to customers and employees. Assistance by phone will still be available in both English and Spanish. Customers can call our customer service department at 509-547-5591.
(March 13) Following national, state, and local emergency declarations, Mason PUD 3 (Shelton, Wash.) is taking steps to protect customers and employees from potential exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
PUD 3 announced that beginning Monday, March 16 – out of concern for the health of the public and PUD employees – lobbies at the Johns Prairie Operations Center, Downtown Shelton Payment Center, and Belfair Payment Center will be closed to the public indefinitely. Staff will be available to conduct business over the phone, online, or via email.
(March 13) Due to concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), all Benton PUD facilities in Kennewick and Prosser, Wash., including our auditoriums, are now closed to the public. These closures will remain in effect until further notice.
We believe our actions are prudent and timely measures consistent with our commitment to protecting the health, safety, and well-being of our employees and customers. Closing our facilities to public access is one of the many steps Benton PUD is taking to make sure we continue to deliver vital electric and broadband services during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to assess the situation and adjust our operations accordingly.
(March 13) In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) has announced that it will close its Customer Service and Energy Services lobby to public access, effective Monday, March 16, at 8 a.m. The utility will maintain regular staffing and hours with customer service being provided though the drive-thru window, telephone communications, and online and mobile device access.
“The PUD provides a critical public service and we will continue to do so,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “By limiting face to face interactions, we are following CDC recommendations on how to limit the spread of the virus, while still serving our customers.”
(March 12) Effective Friday, March 13, Chelan County PUD is closing public access to its office lobbies and other public entrances, until further notice as our community faces increasing impacts from COVID-19. The closure effects PUD offices in Chelan, Leavenworth, and Wenatchee, Wash.
Closing the lobbies and access to public meeting rooms and auditoriums is one of the many steps Chelan PUD is taking to make sure we continue to deliver vital electric, drinking water, sewer, and broadband internet services to customer-owners during the coronavirus pandemic. A number of community members have been tested locally for the coronavirus, and out of an abundance of caution, the lobby and auditorium closures are being implemented along with other Chelan PUD measures.
(March 12) OPALCO (Eastsound, Wash.) is closing its offices to the public on Monday, March 16, in order to help keep co-op staff healthy and its system running smoothly. All business services are available by telephone and online.
“We are open for business,” said General Manger Foster Hildreth. “We have a responsibility to protect our staff so that they can keep the lights on for the membership. We’re doing our part to keep essential infrastructure running and our membership safe as we wait out this pandemic.”
(March 11) Recent public health concerns regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) are a top concern for Franklin PUD (Pasco, Wash.). Franklin PUD is monitoring information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding COVID-19, and is following federal, state, and local agency recommendations.
The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. However, at this time, the Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD) reports there are no positive cases in Benton or Franklin counties. Franklin PUD provides an essential service to our community and will continue to operate as normal until further notice. Should Franklin PUD be required to take additional action, Franklin PUD will notify customers promptly and follow the Business Continuity Plan that is in place to ensure services are provided to customers, while still ensuring employees and our community remain safe.
(March 13) To protect the health and well-being of customers and employees, Snohomish County PUD has closed its offices, including its Headquarters building in downtown Everett, Wash., to all public access effective March 13 and paused non-essential business operations until further notice.
The PUD’s decision, which is in line with guidance from the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, and the Snohomish Health District, will not affect the essential services the PUD provides to its customers, including the reliable delivery of power and water.
“We are making this decision out of an abundance of caution for the public and our employees,” said John Haarlow, Snohomish County PUD CEO/GM. “We have a team that will continue to monitor the situation in order to make the best decisions possible as we move forward.”
(March 11) Following the county’s recommendation of limiting large gatherings, Snohomish County PUD (Everett, Wash.) has canceled all rental and complementary usage of public spaces at PUD locations, including the PUD Auditorium at the utility’s Headquarters in downtown Everett. The Headquarters and Community Offices in Stanwood, Arlington, Snohomish, Monroe and Lynnwood remain open for business for the time being, but customers are encouraged to conduct business with the PUD, when possible, online, over the phone at (425) 783-1000 or by email at email@example.com.
The PUD has also canceled all upcoming public in-person outreach, including lessons in local schools by PUD Classroom Educators, scheduled events for its High-Voltage Demonstration Trailer and participation in public events such as the Home Show.
(March 13) Grant PUD (Ephrata, Wash.) learned on Friday (March 13) afternoon that both workers, a contract worker and a regular employee, who were tested for COVID-19 Coronavirus have received negative results.
In light of this news, Grant PUD is consulting with Grant County Health District and developing a plan to have workers, who are not at a high risk of serious complications from the virus, report to their normal work locations on Tuesday. To continue to reduce risks of COVID-19, the utility will keep its facilities closed to the public until further notice.
(March 11) Grant PUD’s Incident Command Team and I decided this week to take the prudent action of closing all Grant PUD facilities to the public. Until further notice, only Grant PUD employees required to provide on-site, mission-critical functions will report to their normal work locations. We are also taking the advice of public health officials to create work from home options where possible.
We’ve taken these measures to keep the public and our employees as safe as possible from the potential impacts of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
(March 11) As a precautionary measure to protect the safety of customers and employees, all Grant PUD (Ephrata, Wash.) facilities will now be closed to public access until further notice. Only employees who are identified as mission-critical personnel in operating Grant PUD’s generating and power systems, as well as the fiber network, will report to work. All other employees, contractors and vendors are ordered not to report to their work locations until further notice.
Grant PUD has learned that one of its contracted employees has had direct and prolonged exposure to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 Coronavirus. This contracted employee recently came into direct contact with several of Grant PUD’s employees. Grant PUD believes that this is a prudent precautionary measure to protect public and employee safety and avoid possible power and fiber service interruptions.