The Green Cove Springs City Utility is lifting its suspensions on disconnections beginning Thursday, April 30.
The announcement made on the city government’s Facebook page was met with criticism and confusion.
“We are furloughed, nice to know that out of every utility company helping their customers.. this one is not,” said one commenter.
“Not much of a warning,” said another commenter. “I don't have city electric but this isn't cool. So many people are out of work and struggling. At least give them a longer deadline to try and find the means of getting caught up.”
Steve Kennedy, Green Cove Springs’ City Manager, said the utility services around 4,500 customers in Clay County.
Of those customers, roughly 120 are eligible for disconnections, meaning they are behind on their payments.
“The deadline was mentioned in our first notice, where we were going to stop doing cutouts and we put that notice in there that it would be through April 30 so people would be aware of it and could plan accordingly,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said the utility doesn’t want customers who are behind on payments to take advantage of a
“The intent there was to help and assist those that were impacted by the COVID-19,” Kennedy said. “It was not necessarily to benefit those that are regularly on our delinquent list and regularly getting cut out. Those folks are not impacted by the COVID-19 in our estimation, because they were regularly on the delinquent list.”
For customers who are still struggling to pay their bill, the utility has set up assistance programs, as long as they haven’t been late on payments more than once in the past year prior to April 1.
The programs include extensions on utility bills, and up to a $100 one-time payment toward the election portion of a past utility bill. In order to get that help, customers have to fill out a COVID-19 Billing Assistance application.
Kennedy also said the electric portion of May’s bill should be cheaper for customers by about 12%-18%, as the utility waived the base rate power cost adjustment.
“The whole idea here is to truly help those that need to be helped and not those that are taking advantage of the system,” Kennedy said.
Clay Electric, another utility that serves Clay and 13 other Florida counties, has an estimated 183,000 customers. Clay Electric has suspended utility disconnections until further notice.
And in a Tuesday board meeting, JEA officials said they were continuing a suspension on utility disconnections and giving customers a three-weeks notice before lifting the suspension. The utility is also offering to help with payment plans and waiving convenience fees for credit card payments.