Providers stop utility shut-offs

Monday, March 23, 2020

As the COVID-19 spread continues to impact local businesses and families in Putnam County, utility providers are trying to give their customers leeway with making payments.

Many such organizations, including Duke Energy and Vectren, have agreed to hold payments for service while residents are being prompted to remain in their homes except for essential travel.

Duke Energy announced waivers on late fees and fees for returned payments on Saturday. A week ago, the electric company also announced that services would not be disconnected due to unpaid bills.

However, Duke added that workers will continue to read meters and send bills, and customers are encouraged to pay what they can so as to not accrue a larger bill later.

“This is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response,” said Duke Energy’s president Lynn Good. “Our goal is to continue providing reliable service while helping our most vulnerable customers during this extraordinary time.”

Vectren took the same steps in suspending natural gas service disconnections for unpaid bills. Customers can use self-service options to manage their accounts online, including making payment arrangements or requesting extensions.

“We thank you for your business and strive to live up to our brand promise to be ‘Always There’ to help make your life more comfortable, productive and enjoyable, especially during times of challenge,” CenterPoint Energy - with which Vectren is a partner - wrote in an announcement.

All utility providers are required to follow a mandate handed down by Gov. Eric Holcomb last week prohibiting shutoffs during the declared state-wide public health emergency.

Clerk-Treasurer Debbie Sillery told the Banner Graphic Monday morning that utilities in Roachdale are following this general moratorium on payments, and that her office is trying to be as open as possible.

“We are working with people on their bills, and anyone with questions can certainly contact our office,” Sillery said.

Though an official hold on utility payments still has to be established, customers in Greencastle will have ways to be as up-to-date as possible on their bills.

Clerk-Treasurer Lynda Dunbar told the Banner Graphic that a resolution on waiving penalties will go before the Greencastle City Council by Wednesday. However, the city is not focusing on disconnects.

“We are encouraging people to keep current with their utilities as much as possible,” Dunbar said. “However, we do understand that they need to keep up with things like work during this time.”

Though the Greencastle Utility Office and its drive-through will be closed starting today, customers may still mail payments or put them in the dropbox. Credit card payments can also be taken over the phone.

Clerk-Treasurer Bobbi Boller told the Banner Graphic that the Bainbridge Town Council and the Bainbridge Utility Board will meet jointly Wednesday evening to discuss payments and shutoffs. However, the Bainbridge Town Office itself will be closed to the public.

Park County REMC is also trying to keep up in working with customers and keeping them up to date as the situation continues to develop.

Marketing and Communications Manager Carolyn Kilby told the Banner Graphic that customers are being asked to call in and arrange payments, and that Parke County REMC’s website and Facebook page will be regularly updated.

Hendricks Power Cooperative declared its own halt on penalties two days before the state’s mandate was announced.

“First and foremost, we encourage our customers to call in,” Vice President of Corporate Marketing Dana Cochran told the Banner Graphic Monday. “We are here for our customers and we will work with them on payments.”

Cochran also iterated that customers should not worry about whether emergencies would be addressed during this time, as repairing issues such as power outages are deemed essential business.

The towns of Fillmore and Russellville, as well as the utility office in Cloverdale, were unable to provide comments regarding payment holds prior to press time Monday evening.

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