Pacific Power won't cut off customers during COVID-19 emergency
Pacific Power announced this week it is temporarily suspending disconnections and late fees for electricity customers during the COVID-19 coronavirus emergency.
The policy applies to electricity customers in Oregon, Washington and California and is in support of the state of emergency declared in all three states, company officials said.
“There doesn’t need to be an extra burden on people,” said Pacific Power spokesman Tom Guantt. “If people are home, their usage might go up. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
Guantt said the company will keep the policy in place as long as the state of emergency declarations are in place.
With public schools closed for two weeks across Oregon, some businesses allowing certain employees to work from home and sick people told to stay home, more people will be dependent on having their power on at home.
Pacific Power said it will continue to evaluate other ways to support customers for the duration of the quickly evolving public health emergency.
Guantt said the company has suspended disconnections and late fees during other emergencies.
“It is something we do even if there’s a huge ice storm or something if people are stranded for weeks. That’s not unprecedented. But this event is unprecedented and broader,” he said.
Pacific Power’s parent company, PacifiCorp, has also stopped disconnections and late fees for its Rocky Mountain Power customers in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, Guantt said.
The West Coast states of Washington, California and Oregon are among the states with the most reported COVID-19 cases. Washington had the most in the country at 457, Oregon had 24 and California had 224 as of Friday morning.
Idaho was one of the few states in the nation to have no reported cases as of Friday morning, while Utah and Wyoming had only a handful of cases.
Guantt said the interior Western states have been less affected so far by the outbreak, but PacifiCorp still wants to alleviate people’s worries their power might be cut off.
He noted the company’s decision to suspend disconnections and late fees was made quickly. Some people may receive disconnection and late fee notices in the mail that were already sent out.
Customers should look for the customer care number listed in the notice and call a representative.
Customers can also call 1-888-221-7070 at any time to speak to a customer care agent who can help answer questions, the company said.
Guantt warned scammers may try to take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We don’t call you and threaten you. If anyone pretends to be from a utility and calls and says, ‘Pay up or else,’ it’s completely illegitimate,” he said.
If the outbreak caused disruptions like sickness among power company workers, PacifiCorp is prepared to pull workers from other areas that are less affected to help keep the power on, just as it would do in a natural disaster, he said.