Submitted by Foster Hildreth
OPALCO General Manager
I wanted to reach out and let you know that your co-op is doing all we can to help our members during these challenging times.
OPALCO’s Board of Directors decided yesterday to suspend all late fees and disconnects during the Covid-19 crisis. This is effective immediately and for the next 60 days. A full COVID-19 program is quickly being developed to ensure reliable power delivery in the islands as disruptions and human impacts multiply and to address longer-term challenges.
We’re working with our local organizations and on all levels: county, state and the federal government, looking for additional resources to bring to our communities and ways to maximize the benefits to our members. The Board has dedicated restricted funding to help our members through the pandemic.
The COVID-19 measures approved yesterday apply to all co-op members who need it for the next 60 days. Members are still responsible for paying their bills; those who are struggling to keep up with their power bills should call OPALCO immediately to set up payment plans. Households who qualify as low income can apply for one or both of OPALCO’s energy assistance programs. Learn more: www.opalco.com/energyassist.
For members who have extenuating circumstances such as loss of wages, illness or business closures due to COVID-19, there will be additional temporary measures available very soon; measures will depend on emergency funding OPALCO can identify and access through county, state and federal organizations. Information is changing daily; OPALCO will report new measures as they are available through its website, email newsletter and social media channels. The COVID-19 program will be reassessed every 60 days as the situation evolves.
As a nonprofit cooperative, OPALCO operates at the cost of service. The Co-op must find ways to help members reduce their energy expenses without adding to the cost of service (rates) for all members. OPALCO cannot afford to waive power bills for its members but is working diligently to find ways to mitigate the impact to members and reduce the magnitude of unpaid bills that could occur over time with payment plans and any other funding relief the Co-op can qualify for.
OPALCO strongly encourages members to sign up for AutoPay and/or pay their bills through SmartHub (online) now that offices are closed. Payment drop boxes are still available at OPALCO’s office — please call ahead if you have no other option than to pay in cash. Please vote in the OPALCO election that is currently happening! We need to keep our co-op governance strong during this time. You can vote in SmartHub, https://www.opalco.com/resource-library/how-to-vote/.
OPALCO’s subsidiary Rock Island Communications has rapidly deployed internet connections to about 72 students in San Juan County so that they can participate in remote learning opportunities. The services are being provided free of charge for the duration of the school closures. Students who could benefit from Rock Island’s Access Education Program can get on the list through their school.
OPALCO’s primary goal is safety: the safety of its members, board, staff and their families. Please stay engaged with OPALCO online at www.opalco.com and encourage friends and neighbors to sign up for this newsletter.
If you have questions about the COVID-19 virus, we recommend the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html. San Juan County Health Department is regularly updating its information at https://www.sanjuanco.com/1668/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.
Please stay safe and well! We’ll get through this by sticking together.