Over the past few weeks, Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG), Entergy, Portland General Electric (PGE), The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and Tennessee Valley Alternative Energy (TVA) have all announced actions that they are taking to help during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.
Many utilities have simultaneously announced suspension of disconnection due to non-payment and delayed payment plans for their customers who are impacted by the virus.
Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG)
PSEG, based in New Jersey, announced it will donate more than 50,000 N95 respirator masks to one of the state’s largest health care systems to boost the facility’s equipment amid COVID-19.
The utility confirmed that it will work directly with the state of New Jersey to continuously evaluate inventory supporting the health care industry, as well as provide additional equipment, if needed.
PSEG said the masks it is donating are from the company’s own inventory of emergency supplies. Nevertheless, PGEG’s employees have been trained in protective measures and have the appropriate amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well.
“We recognize the dire need that the medical and first responder communities are facing, and we are eager to share our supplies,” PSEG Chairman, President and CEO Ralph Izzo said. “This critical staff is on the front lines in the drive to contain the coronavirus outbreak, and we want to do whatever we can to support their lifesaving mission.”
COVID-19 has created an increased demand for medical equipment and respirator masks are an essential item needed for the health care industry.
The Entergy Charitable Foundation announced its establishment of the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund in an effort to help working families during this time.
The Louisiana-based company recognizes the impact on ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households and low-income elderly and disabled customers, as roughly 40% to 50% of Entergy’s customer base fits this demographic.
“The health and safety of our customers, employees and communities is Entergy’s top priority,” said Leo Denault, chairman and CEO of Entergy Corporation. “For more than 100 years, Entergy has never wavered in our commitment to supporting our customers and the communities we serve. This pandemic is no different. During this challenging time, we are helping lessen the impact of this crisis on the most vulnerable in our communities. I strongly encourage our business partners to join us in this effort.”
Entergy also stated that its shareholders are committing $700,000 to the relief fund to help with food, rent, and mortgage assistance and other critical financial needs. Grants from the fund will be provided to United Way organizations and other nonprofit partners across Entergy’s service area.
A program that is already in place is Entergy’s The Power to Care, which provides emergency bill payment assistance to seniors and disabled individuals. The limit of shareholders’ dollar for dollar match of customer donations was increased to $1 million this year and shareholders continue to match employee donations with no limit.
With these resources, as well as the suspension of customer disconnects, Entergy aims to alleviate financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Portland General Electric (PGE)
PGE President and CEO, Maria Pope, announced PGE’s $1 million commitment to the following organizations in a letter to PGE customers last week:
- $200,000 to the Oregon Food Bank
- $100,000 to Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon
- $50,000 to the Marion Polk Food Share
- $30,000 to the Oregon Community Foundation COVID-19 Fund
- $620,000 to educational programs
The educational program grants will support several non-profit organizations to help reduce financial burdens and pivot to digital learning.
In addition to the above funds, the PGE Foundation will be working with its nonprofit partners and locally with Community Action Partnership of Oregon, NW Energy Coalition and the Oregon Citizens Utility Board to secure $30 million in emergency assistance funds.
The company is also focusing on cybersecurity, as Pope states that COVID-19 provides scammers [link here to that scammers article we ran] with ample opportunity to con and target individuals. Due to employees now working from home while practicing social distancing, digital protection is crucial.
PGE aims to stay close to its communities, customers and help in any way possible to ensure safety to their clientele.
Pope also said that her utility is working with a broad coalition of customer advocates and utilities on a $1.4 billion request for additional federal energy assistance funds.
The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM)
The PNM Resources Foundation announced it is offering $200,00 in grant money for nonprofits with programs promoting community safety. The company said that funding will range from $10,000 to $50,000, with preference given to those implementing COVID-19 programs.
Eligible nonprofits must hold a 501(c)3 status from the IRS and be within the areas that PNM and Texas-New Mexico Power (TNMP) serves. The application deadline is April 2, 2020.
PNM Resources said it wants to help the state of New Mexico move forward and the grant money is to cover program and operational costs within the community. The company believes that community safety will be at jeopardy during COVID-19 as a result of financial hardships nonprofits are facing while still trying to serve the community.
“Community safety is about feeling safe, whether at home, work, or in the community,” said Laurie Roach, PNM Resources Foundation director. “With COVID-19 affecting everyone’s lives right now, the PNM Resources Foundation is proud to double the amount of nonprofit support to nonprofits for community safety grants from $100,000 to $200,000 because that’s what this Foundation does – we help our nonprofit community, especially in times of crisis.”
In the past, PNM Resources Foundation and Corporate Giving have awarded more than $20 million combined to nonprofit organizations; the PNM Resources Foundation being a separate, nonprofit and tax-exempt corporation.
Tennessee Valley Alternative Energy (TVA)
The Tennessee Valley Authority announced its contribution of $1 billion in credit support as an option for local power companies to defer wholesale power payments.
The company provides electricity in seven southeastern states without taxpayer funding, as well as flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River System.
TVA states that a portion of the local power company’s monthly TVA wholesale power payment would be deferred for a period during COVID-19. The detailed plan will be customized for each local power company and an appropriate repayment plan will also be put in place.
TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said, “We recognize that we have a responsibility to leverage TVA’s resources and expertise to provide local power companies the stability and flexibility to address the unique challenges faced by their customers.”
“The strength of public power is a passionate commitment to serve people over balance sheets,” Lyash continues. “Just as they have through February flooding and March storm recovery, our TVA team remains committed to working with all 154 of our local power company partners to benefit the communities and customers we jointly serve, especially during these challenging times.”
Stay safe and hopeful
Overall, the above utilities have provided impactful donations to aid customers and their community during this challenging time. We ask that you remain hopeful and check with your local utility companies to learn more about accommodations during COVID-19.
If you hear of other utility initiatives that we haven’t reported here, reach out to me at [email protected].