Utilities across the US have stepped up to assist furloughed federal employees who endured financial hardships and were unable to keep up with their energy bills during the government shutdown.

Financial assistance programs aren’t new within the utility industry; however, many customers affected by the shutdown may be unaware of the programs available to them. Over the past few weeks, utilities have been spreading the word to customers about these assistance programs.

Utility assistance efforts

Customers in Washington, DC, were most affected by the government shutdown, so utilities such as Pepco, DC Water, Washington Gas, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and Dominion offered assistance in numerous ways. The Washington Post article D.C. Area Utilities Offer Help to Furloughed Federal Employees During Shutdown outlines how these organizations waived late fees, moved bill due dates, extended payment plans, offered flexible payment arrangements and assistance programs, and created grants.

PNM also has quite a few customers affected by the shutdown. CNBC’s article These Are the States Most Affected by the Government Shutdown, Study Finds lists New Mexico as the second most impacted state overall. According to Albuquerque news source KRQE, as outlined in PNM Helping Federal Employees Affected by Government Shutdown, “PNM says they realize this can be a scary situation, and say they won’t be shutting off the affected families’ electricity if they’re already behind on their bills. All you need to do is provide PNM a copy of your furlough letter. There are also options for those federal employees not behind on their bill payments.”

LG&E and KU’s affected customers were advised to work with customer care to develop a plan that suits their needs, according to an article by NBC affiliate Lex18, KU Has Options for Furloughed Workers Struggling with Heating, Electricity Costs.

Customers of the Exelon Corp. utilities (ComEd, BGE, PECO, Pepco, and Delmarva Power) can take advantage of payment plans such as Payment Arrangements and assistance programs such as CARES: Customer Assistance and Referral Evaluation Services, Residential Hardship, CHAMP, LIHEAP: Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Customer Assistance Program. Exelon doesn’t ask customers to provide substantiating documentation to participate in these programs.

Other utilities, including APS, Duquesne Light, and CPS Energy, directed customers to available assistance programs via press release:

Communicating assistance efforts on social media

Utilities are also turning to social media to spread the message. We’ve gathered some examples of how utilities are using social media to highlight their assistance offerings.

LG&E and KU

NorthWestern Energy

Instagram post by NorthWestern Energy related to the government shutdown, directing customers to financial assistance programs

Pepco

Instagram post by Pepco related to the government shutdown, directing customers to financial assistance programs

NV Energy

Tacoma Public Utilities

Instagram post by TPU related to the government shutdown, directing customers to financial assistance programs

Portland General Electric

Puget Sound Energy

If you’ve been affected by the government shutdown and are interested in learning how your utility can help you:

  1. Contact your utility’s customer care department.
  2. Be prepared to provide proof of your government employment and furlough impact.
  3. Work with your utility to develop the best plan of action to help address your energy bill concerns.

If you’re a member of the E Source Corporate Communications or Customer Care Services, submit an Ask E Source inquiry to learn more about best practices for communicating with your customers during times of financial hardship.

Contributing Authors

Senior Analyst, Marketing and Communications

Jessica is an analyst on the Marketing and Communications research team at E Source and has 12 years of digital marketing and public...