Raleigh, N.C. (May 30, 2020) – As local organizations, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives understand firsthand the hardships members and communities are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and are therefore encouraging members who are experiencing payment difficulties to contact their cooperative directly to develop a payment plan together. Cooperatives are emphasizing this as Gov. Cooper today issued Executive Order 142, which extends the suspension on disconnecting residential utility consumers for non-payment.
“We are concerned that Gov. Cooper’s extension of the moratorium on disconnections unintentionally sends a signal to cooperative members that they do not need to pay their utility bill during this pandemic,” said Nelle Hotchkiss, chief operating officer and senior vice president of association services for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “In reality, the accrued bills will have to be paid back over time, and we want to prevent cooperative members from being surprised or facing additional financial burdens as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Easing the burden of this pandemic has been a priority for cooperatives statewide. They have exhibited their commitment to North Carolina communities, to members and to the public through actions like establishing WiFi hotspots so children can fulfill remote learning requirements, hosting food drives, accelerating the retirement of capital credits and much more.
This local focus is one of the differentiating factors of electric cooperatives, which differ from investor-owned utilities in size and structure. Because of this, non-payments and deferred payments have a greater impact to the financial health of cooperatives and therefore their ability to serve all members.
“The greatest advantage of electric cooperatives is that they are local and accountable to the members they serve,” Hotchkiss said. “This local accountability means cooperatives must carefully balance the obligation to serve an individual with the obligation to faithfully serve the entire membership, and we are disappointed that the extension of this executive order chips away at that flexibility and responsibility.”
Members of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are encouraged to contact their cooperative directly to arrive at a solution that prevents them from falling further behind on bill payments, while also protecting the viability and capability of the cooperative to serve all members.
North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives collectively power the lives of approximately 2.5 million people in 93 of the state’s 100 counties, primarily in rural areas. For more information, visit ncelectriccooperatives.com.