ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., July 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Duke Energy Florida will continue assisting customers experiencing economic hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic as the company begins returning to standard billing and payment practices in mid-August.
However, the earliest disconnections for non-payment under regular credit and notice timelines will not begin until Sept. 1 for customers.
In March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company immediately launched a sweeping series of steps to help customers, including suspending disconnections for non-payment, as well as late-payment fees and fees for credit card payments and other payment types.
The company also has donated $1 million to assist COVID-19 relief efforts in Florida. For more information on how Duke Energy Florida has helped local communities through rapid-relief funding during the pandemic, click here.
Now, as the company prepares to resume standard billing practices, Duke Energy encourages customers to take advantage of the company's payment programs to help manage electric bills and avoid service disconnection.
"Our customers remain our top priority. Many of them are facing unprecedented adversity during this pandemic. We want to be thoughtful and provide extended payment options to avoid power interruptions during the pandemic," said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida president. "As financial assistance has become available for qualified customers, we believe now is the right time to begin resuming more traditional operations. We will, however, continue to help our customers access resources to assist them and provide additional information that can help reduce their bills."
Enhanced customer care
Duke Energy Florida has been proactively working with customers who are accumulating past-due balances on their 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 Malcolm Barnes, Duke Energy's general manager for regional customer care operations. "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 Florida will continue to provide assistance to residential and business customers whose accounts have fallen behind due to illness or lost wages.
Support for these efforts include:
- Online tools so customers can directly choose an extended payment arrangement that meets their individual needs.
- Customers who need additional assistance can visit the Energy Neighbor Fund webpage to learn how community agencies can help pay energy bills.
- Professional guidance for small business customers to help analyze their energy usage, discuss energy rates and identify solutions to help lower their energy bills as they are reopening.
- To make it easier to pay, the company will continue waiving credit/debit card and walk-in payment fees for residential customers for an additional two months once billing and payment practices resume. These fees will resume in November.
What customers can expect
Duke Energy Florida customers will return to standard billing and payment practices in mid-August, which means customers in arrears will receive notices about their past-due balances and the earliest possible date their service could be interrupted. That change could result in disconnections for non-payment under regular credit and notice timelines during the month of September for customers.
The company anticipates higher than normal call volume as standard operations resume and encourages customers to consider using the online self-service options now to avoid long wait times.
Customers should download the company's mobile app or visit duke-energy.com for information and most service transactions. Customers who are unable to self-serve can contact the customer contact center at 800.700.8744.
Duke Energy's customer service specialists are available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to assist customers with customized payment plans that meet their specific situations.
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:
- Utility bills
- Housing, food and other essentials
- Child and elder care
- Medical expenses and health counseling
To get started, simply visit 211.org or dial 211 from your phone.
Service orders, field operations
The company 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 working hard to deliver the reliable power customers need while following CDC guidelines to protect the health and well-being of our communities.
The company has been methodically resuming some activities, consistent with its commitment to safely and reliably serve customers.
As the company continues to resume service orders previously suspended, personnel will continue following CDC guidelines to complete work.
Duke Energy Florida employees and contractors who may interact with customers or engage in field work have access to necessary personal protective equipment 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. If you have questions regarding work that needs to be scheduled, please call us.
The company anticipates that all previously delayed, deferred, and suspended non-essential operations will have resumed by Sept. 1, 2020.
Duke Energy Florida
Duke Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, owns a diverse generation mix of natural gas, coal and renewables, providing about 10,200 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 1.8 million customers in a 13,000-square-mile service area.
Duke Energy (DUK) - Get Report, a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of the largest energy holding companies in the U.S. It employs 30,000 people and has an electric generating capacity of 51,000 megawatts through its regulated utilities, and 3,000 megawatts through its nonregulated Duke Energy Renewables unit.
Duke Energy is transforming its customers' experience, modernizing the energy grid, generating cleaner energy and expanding natural gas infrastructure to create a smarter energy future for the people and communities it serves. The Electric Utilities and Infrastructure unit's regulated utilities serve approximately 7.7 million retail electric customers in six states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The Gas Utilities and Infrastructure unit distributes natural gas to more than 1.6 million customers in five states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The Duke Energy Renewables unit operates wind and solar generation facilities across the U.S., as well as energy storage and microgrid projects.
Duke Energy was named to Fortune's 2020 "World's Most Admired Companies" list, and Forbes' 2019 "America's Best Employers" list. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com. The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos, videos and other materials. Duke Energy's illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on Twitter , LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.
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SOURCE Duke Energy