COLORADO SPRINGS — Rebounding from COVID-19 is more complicated when struggling with something as basic as your utility bill. "We've tried very hard to anticipate some of the needs of our customers," said Colorado Springs Utilities, Community Liaison, April Speake. Most utility companies would prefer to help customers find payment options rather than cut-off the utilities.
Colorado Springs Utilities staff members have taken a proactive approach during the pandemic. A team was created to contact customers who are not typically behind on their bills. "We're not calling them asking for money. We're saying we've noticed your behind on your bill, have you been impacted, are there any resources we can tell you about." There are many options available to utility customers.
The federal Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (Leap) usually ends when spring arrives. Because of COVID-19 it has been extended. "There has been more dollars infused into that program,” said Speake, “It has also been extended until the end of July." If someone has lost their job, they are a likely candidate for LEAP.
Most utility companies also get donations from other customers to support aid efforts. At Colorado Springs Utilities it is called COPE. Mountain View Electric has Operation Round Up. Black Hills Energy in Pueblo has a similar program where customers with ability to pay a little extra, round up on their bill payment.
If you do not qualify for one program it is worth asking about other options. "There are a lot of customers that are hesitant to call us for assistance. Something they've never had to do before," said Speake. Springs Utilities will sometimes work with customers offering flexible payment plans. That can be a delayed payment, or payments broken up over an agreed time.
Utility providers want customers to know COVID-19 is factoring into their business plan. It includes help for people with finance problems caused by the pandemic.