Past due accounts spike for local utility co-op

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BLOOMFIELD, Ind. — A local utility co-op reported a spike in past due accounts amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement was made Tuesday during a Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC monthly Board of Directors meeting.

UDWI Chief Operating Officer Shane Smith said that nearly 800 members have past due accounts, which is eight to 10 times higher than this time last year.

Following state guidelines, the moratorium on disconnections related to COVID-19 will end beginning Aug. 1.

UDWI officials said they are actively reaching out to members regarding late payments to let them know a disconnect is possible in the coming weeks, and to offer payment plans that may help those with past due bills.

“During these uncertain times we want you to know that we are here to help,” UDWI CEO Doug Childs said. “We understand that the past few months have caused financial hardships for many people, and we do not want anyone to be disconnected. We urge all members to contact us as soon as possible to begin working on a payment plan.” 

UDWI said it offers a couple of ways for members to catch up on their bills.

First, payment plans allow members to pay off past due amounts over several months. In addition, the co-op encouraged members to enroll in Prepaid Metering Plans, which gives members the ability to keep their power connected, avoid reconnection fees and also work on paying off past due amounts each month.

Several regional organizations are offering Energy Assistance Programs to help members who are behind on payments. Energy assistance is a one-time benefit that can assist with the cost of home energy and can help if a member is facing disconnection. 

More information regarding these plans and the assistance programs can be found on the UDWI website, and members are encouraged to contact the office at (812) 384-4446 to talk to a customer service representative as soon as possible.

Also during the meeting, Childs reminded members that they may request tree trimming service on the UDWI website. While UDWI increased its vegetation management budget significantly during the past year to help bring the entire system up to industry standards, the co-op understands there is still much work to be done and there are specific areas in need of service. Members can request that certain trees on their property be removed or trimmed if they are affecting the safety and reliability of power to a home or business. 

As of July 1, all UDWI employees, with the exception of Childs, will receive a three percent raise.

The 2020 budget and financial report allow for the raise without affecting rates or operations, “COVID-19 has been challenging for everyone and I am very proud of the way the UDWI employees have handled everything the last few months,” Childs said. “Many employees were asked to complete work outside of their normal duties and it didn’t go unnoticed. I thank everyone for working with the situation handed to us and making the best of it.”

The Community Fund Committee awarded grants totaling $10,880 to 10 local organizations. This program is 100 percent funded by generous members who choose to “round up” their bill to the nearest dollar, and all funds stay in the community to benefit local charities and nonprofits in the UDWI service territory.

Recipients were: Bertha’s Mission; Clay County Humane Society; Faithful Fitness; Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry; Knights of Columbus Council 1166; Linton Fraternal Order of Police; Linton Police Department / National Night Out; Open Arms Family & Educational Services, Inc.; Pregnancy Choices; and Scotland Festival.

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