Duke Energy will begin its standard billing and payment practices in South Carolina in the coming weeks, keeping service disconnections for nonpayment of electric service suspended until October 2020.
South Carolina customers who are experiencing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic now will have until October to pay previous balances to their accounts or make payment arrangements.
Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress — the company’s two electric utilities in South Carolina — will return to standard billing and payment practices as of Oct. 1, which means customers in arrears will receive notices about their past-due balances. However, the earliest possible date their electric service could be disconnected is Oct. 12.
For several months, the company has been reaching out to customers behind on their bills to offer payment plans. It is actively working with customers to prevent the disconnection of electric service and urging eligible customers to take advantage of available financial support through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds available through statewide community action agencies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused extraordinary financial and emotional hardships for many in the community. Customers who need assistance are encouraged to visit 211.org to learn about available resources. Those in need of a payment arrangement are not required to make a down payment and no customer on a payment plan who is current on that arrangement will be disconnected.
“Many of our customers are facing unprecedented adversity during this pandemic, so for months we have expanded the ways we can help them avoid power interruptions,” said Mike Callahan, Duke Energy’s South Carolina state president. “Our goal has been to work with customers as South Carolina continues to open up the economy. We will continue to help our customers access resources to assist and provide additional information that can help reduce their bills as we return to standard billing practices.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the company launched a series of steps to help customers, including voluntarily suspending disconnections for nonpayment, as well as late-payment fees and other payment related fees.
During the pandemic, the Duke Energy Foundation has contributed more than US$500,000 in foundation and corporate funds to South Carolina not-for-profit organizations, focusing on hunger relief, social services, and bill assistance needs of its customers and communities, as well as support for small businesses.
More about the measures Duke Energy has taken in response to the pandemic can be found at dukeenergyupdates.com.
Duke Energy has been working with South Carolina customers who are accumulating past-due balances on their electric utility bills, offering payment plans to mitigate potentially more significant financial challenges in the future.
“If you are facing a financial hardship, we are here to help,” said Lesley Quick, Duke Energy’s vice president for customer service. “Our customer contact specialists are prepared to support our customers through these challenging times and provide manageable solutions so customers can keep their lights on.”
Expanded assistance options
Duke Energy will continue to provide assistance to residential and business customers whose accounts have fallen behind because of illness or lost wages.
Support for these efforts includes:
- Federally funded programs like LIHEAP are available. Additional funds were added to the program because of the pandemic and the state is urging utility customers to apply through statewide community action agencies. Click here for details.
- Convenience for customers to choose an extended payment arrangement that meets their needs online. Click here for more information.
- Duke Energy Progress customers who need additional assistance can visit the Energy Neighbor Fund webpage to learn how community agencies can help pay energy bills.
- Duke Energy Carolinas customers who need additional assistance can visit the Share the Warmth webpage to learn how community agencies can help pay energy bills.
- Resources are available here for small business customers as they are reopening, from financial assistance to billing and payment options to professional guidance to manage their energy usage.
- To make it easier to pay, the company will continue waiving walk-in payment fees for customers for an additional two months once standard billing and payment practices resume.
What customers can expect
Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress residential and nonresidential electric customers with delinquent balances who have not requested a payment arrangement before Oct. 1 could be subject to disconnections for nonpayment beginning Oct. 12 under regular credit and notice timelines. Customers who are in arrears will receive notices about their past-due balances and the earliest possible date their electric service could be interrupted.
Even if a customer has turned down or not responded to a previously offered payment arrangement offer, such arrangements can still be made after a notice is received in order to avoid disconnection.
While the companies have been reaching out to offer payment arrangements ahead of time, Duke Energy recognizes that it may have higher-than-normal call volume and encourages customers to consider using the online self-service options to avoid longer wait times.
Customers are requested to download the company’s mobile app or visit duke-energy.com for information about most service transactions.
Customers who need financial assistance are encouraged to visit 211.org to locate available resources. The free service can help customers find local community agencies that provide assistance to meet a wide range of needs, including:
- Housing, food, and other essentials
- Medical expenses and health counseling
Service orders, field operations
Duke Energy also suspended some of its field operations and non-emergency work inside customers’ premises. However, as a provider of an essential service, the company continues to deliver the reliable power customers need while following CDC guidelines to protect the health and well-being of its communities.
The company has been methodically resuming some activities to safely and reliably serve customers. As it continues to resume service orders previously suspended, personnel will follow CDC guidelines to complete work.
Duke Energy employees and contractors who may interact with customers or engage in fieldwork have access to necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and will maintain social distancing to the extent practical.
For work that must be scheduled, the company will contact customers in advance to inform them of the nature of the work and the safety protocols that will be used. Customers will have the right to refuse and reschedule the work for a later date, unless an immediate safety issue exists.