North West REC is here to help during this uncertain time. Find all the updates concerning our members since the outbreak below.
For more details about this program, read this: Ieda Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program Fact Sheet or visit www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com for eligibility and applications.
Utility bill assistance available for Iowa small businesses impacted by COVID-19
The Iowa Economic Development Authority recently announced a new program to assist small businesses and nonprofits struggling to pay their electric and natural gas bills due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program will distribute $14.5 million to provide short-term relief to eligible small businesses in Iowa. Governor Reynolds allocated funding for this program from Iowa’s share of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump in March.
Applications will be accepted at www.iowabusinessrecovery.com until August 21, 2020, or until funding is depleted, whichever comes first. An eligible business can apply for a grant up to $7,500 to cover utility bill debt incurred for electric or natural gas service provided between March 17, 2020, and June 30, 2020. The applicant's utility service provider(s) will receive a credit, which will be applied to the applicant's utility debt.
- For-profit and nonprofit businesses with 50 or fewer employees
- Must have a physical location (non-residential location) in Iowa
- Must be registered with the Iowa Secretary of State to do business in the state
- Must have experienced a COVID-19 loss of revenue on or after March 17, 2020, that resulted in unpaid bills for electric or natural gas service provided between March 17, 2020, and June 30, 2020
- Have not received any IEDA Small Business Relief Grant funding or any assistance from the State of Iowa Nonprofit Recovery Fund
- A business’s average monthly energy use must not exceed 25,000 kWh for electricity or 2,500 therms for natural gas
- A business must not have incurred more than two late charges in 2019 for not paying its utility bills prior to March 17, 2020
- The business must be open or planning to reopen
The Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program is intended to provide short-term relief for Iowa’s small businesses that have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on this program, complete eligibility requirements and answers to frequently asked questions, please go to www.iowabusinessrecovery.com. Please contact North West REC at 712-707-4935 or 800-766-2099 for details regarding your average monthly electric use and payment history.
Facing financial hardships during the pandemic? Contact North West REC to discuss payment options
For many Iowa families, the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just a public health crisis – it’s also a financial crisis. To ease the financial burden on those who are experiencing decreased or lost income, Iowa’s locally owned electric cooperatives have temporarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment during the health emergency.
It’s important to note, however, the disconnect suspension is not a bill waiver or bill forgiveness. If you’re unable to pay your bill on time and in full, please contact North West REC as soon as possible to make payment arrangements.
The Iowa Office of Attorney General Tom Miller and the Iowa Utilities Board recommend consumers pay what they can to avoid problems in the future. “Customers who are able to pay should pay their utility bills, or even just a portion. That will prevent large unpaid balances and reduce the potential for service disconnection once the public health emergency has passed,” noted Consumer Advocate Jennifer Easler in a recent news release.
Not-for-profit electric cooperatives are locally owned by the consumers they serve. Through this business model, each consumer shares in the operational costs.
“It is the goal of each electric cooperative to deliver quality service without profit – service at cost, shared by its member-consumers,” said Chuck Soderberg, executive vice president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives. “This means electric cooperatives have limited reserves to sustain high levels of unpaid bills. It’s important every member-consumer has a plan in place to pay their energy bill.”
Although it hasn’t been business as usual, the focus of each electric cooperative remains on keeping your life as normal as possible. If you need assistance or would like to establish a payment plan, please contact North West REC as soon as possible. Your co-op can also help you identify simple ways to reduce your electric use which will lower your bill. We’re here for you.
Tips for managing home energy use
Iowa’s electric cooperatives encourage our member-consumers to use energy wisely. As you spend more time at home during the pandemic, you’ll likely see an increase in home energy use and bill amounts. Here are some ways to help lower your energy bill during the spring and summer months:
- Program your thermostat to maximize energy savings. Setting your thermostat even one degree lower when heating or one degree higher when cooling can reduce energy use by up to 5 percent.
- Use a ceiling fan when you’re in the room and set your thermostat a few degrees higher in warm weather to lower your electric bill. Make sure the ceiling fan is running counter-clockwise in the summer and turn off the ceiling fan when you leave the room.
- Dial down the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees or lower. This will also help prevent scalding.
- Wash only full loads of laundry and use warm or cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load’s energy use in half, and cold water can save even more.
- Air dry dishes in your dishwasher. This step can cut your dishwasher’s energy use by up to 50 percent.
- Replace incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs in frequently used fixtures. Lighting can amount to up to 12 percent of monthly energy use. LED bulbs can cut lighting costs by 75 percent.
- Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. Small appliances and electronics use energy even when not in use. When powered on, game consoles, televisions and similar electronics are responsible for up to 12 percent of energy use.
- If you have signed up for SmartHub and can track your energy consumption, use it to see if your energy efficiency efforts are working.
- Ask us about budget billing or levelized billing, which will give you a predictable electric bill each month and level out seasonal cost fluctuations.
Resources to help Iowans with energy costs
Iowa’s electric cooperatives are concerned about the financial hardships many families are facing. There are several resources available to help you pay your energy bills.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): LIHEAP is a federally funded grant program that helps low-income households meet their immediate home energy needs, and the deadline to apply for eligibility has been extended to May 31, 2020. The LIHEAP fund received a sizable allocation of new federal funds as part of the coronavirus stimulus program and assistance is available through local community action outreach offices in every Iowa county. Our members can contact Mid-Sioux Opportunity at the central office in Remsen, 800-859-2025 or 712-786-2001, or Upper Des Moines Opportunity, O’Brien County Outreach Center, 712-957-1023. For more information, contact the Iowa Department of Human Rights by calling (515) 242-5655 or visit humanrights.iowa.gov/dcaa/where-apply.
Iowa 211: Calling 2-1-1 is a free and confidential service that provides Iowans with help and answers from thousands of health and human service agencies and resources in their local communities. Resources for utility bill assistance can be found by dialing 2-1-1 or visiting www.211iowa.org.
Evaluate payment options: Concern for community is a core cooperative principle, and Iowa’s electric co-ops are willing to work with member-consumers who may have trouble paying their bills. If you are experiencing financial hardships, please contact your local electric co-op to discuss payment options. Co-op staff can also suggest ways to reduce your energy use to lower your bills. Our top priority is serving our member-consumers, especially in these challenging times.
Beware of utility scams
Utility scams have increased during the pandemic as imposters take advantage of the disruptive situation to confuse consumers. Scammers may try to contact you by phone, email or text to threaten immediate disconnection if an immediate payment is not provided. North West REC personnel would never contact you out-of-the-blue and demand immediate payment, threaten disconnection of electric service or ask for personal information like your bank account details, address or social security number. If you receive a suspicious call, text or email, please contact us directly to verify the communication. For more helpful tips, download the Consumer’s Guide to Imposter Utility Scams at www.utilitiesunited.org.
2020 ENERGY TRAIL TOUR RESPONSE TO COVID-19
DATE: April 28, 2020
Out of an abundance of caution and with the health and safety of member-owners in mind, the 2020 Energy Trail Tours have been cancelled. North West REC offers two tour opportunities, each summer, in partnership with our wholesale power provider, Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative (NIPCO).
"NIPCO's electric generation facility partners have closed their facilities to mitigate operational impacts resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic. Plans to re-open those facilities remain uncertain for the foreseeable future," stated tour coordinator Angela Catton. "The decision to cancel the July tours ensures the health and safety of tour participants as well as employees of the power plants that interact with them."
Energy Trail Tours give cooperative member-owners a first-hand opportunity to learn from those directly involved with the process of power generation and delivery. Catton added, "What makes the tour experience so compelling is that participants learn and laugh, together. Tour groups build lasting friendships with other members of our cooperative family through shared experiences and personal interaction. While difficult to make, the decision to cancel the tours was the prudent thing to do in response to state and federal public health officials’ recommendations surrounding social distancing guidelines and interstate travel in slowing the spread of the virus."
Plans are underway for 2021 with more information being shared with our membership in January. Energy Trail Tours remain a popular, member-engagement activity for North West REC. If you have any questions, feel free to call our office.