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News & Press: Georgia's Electric Cooperatives

EMCs Respond to COVID-19

Tuesday, June 16, 2020  
Posted by: Terri Statham
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The 41 electric co-ops in Georgia have been quick to respond to COVID-19, carefully balancing member service with the well-being of members, employees and communities throughout Georgia.

EMCs are regularly communicating with members on social media and other channels about the steps they are taking to assist members while continuing critical business operations. These include temporarily suspending disconnections for non-payment, offering alternative payment arrangements and implementing safety protocols based on recommendations from the CDC and local health care providers.


Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Actions

[Latest EMC Contributions - June 16, 2020 Update]

The Southern Rivers Energy (SRE) Trust recently awarded a $5,000 Operation Round Up grant to Meriwether County schools to equip five buses with SmartBus WiFi systems. Meriwether County is likely the most underserved area in SRE’s territory for internet and cellphone service, and according to county school superintendent Al Griffin, “Meriwether County School System needs to equip as many buses as feasible with WiFi to provide the essential internet needs for students to enhance learning.”

In support members facing financial difficulties because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Planters EMC Board of Directors recently approved a special general retirement of capital credits, totaling approximately $1.8 million. This special action enables credits to be distributed three months earlier than usual and increases the total amount distributed by 50 percent.

The Canoochee EMC Foundation recently distributed $5,000 in donations to community healthcare efforts. The Bryan County Emergency Management Agency received $2,500 to assist in its COVID-19 response, and the Liberty Regional Medical Center in Hinesville received $2,500 toward much-needed thermometers.

The Satilla REMC Board of Directors approved a special expedited retirement of a portion of the membership’s capital credits for 2019. Normally scheduled for September, Satilla has earmarked approximately $3.5 million to be returned as bill credits over the months of May and June.

As a part of its commitment to community during COVID-19, GreyStone Power donated $100,000 to be spread among several food banks in its service area. The GreyStone Power Foundation, Inc. has also provided assistance to nonprofits throughout the community.

Due to the unprecedented circumstances during COVID-19, the Habersham EMC Board of Directors voted to return 2020 capital credits early. These are typically returned in November; however, this year, capital contributed by members in 1989 and 1990 was returned to members in late May.

Coastal Electric recently announced it will return $2.4 million in capital credit refunds to members early. Those who had service with Coastal Electric in 2019 will receive a capital credit refund on their June electric bill, or for Advance Pay members, reflected on their daily balance and usage alerts by May 30.

During its May meeting, the Jackson EMC Foundation board of directors awarded $37,650 in emergency grants to nonprofits responding to COVID-19. These funds will help support local efforts, such as emergency childcare for frontline employees, hunger relief for children and senior citizens, and supplies to make approved face shields and masks for first responders and healthcare workers.

Flint Energies and its philanthropic arm, the Flint Energies Foundation, donated $25,000 to to assist with local COVID-19 pandemic response efforts. Feeding the Valley and Middle Georgia Community Food Bank each received $8,500 to feed those in need across the co-op service territory. The Emergency Management Association of Georgia – Area 4 received $8,000 to purchase personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and first responders.


[May 18, 2020 Update]

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Flint Energies has accelerated approximately $352,500 in Smart Select load management rebates, typically distributed in the fall. Beginning this month, a $25 bill credit will be applied to the bills of all qualifying members. Designed to reduce electric use during peak periods, Smart Select is a voluntary program in which members allow the co-op to attach a load control switch to qualifying devices in their homes.

North Georgia EMC is helping to sponsor a regional hub for Georgia Grown produce boxes to alleviate some of the strain COVID-19 has placed on farmers and the food supply chain throughout the state. In partnership with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and its Georgia Grown program, Dalton’s Oakwood Café will divide 310,000 pounds of produce—enough to fill up nine tractor-trailers worth of food—into 20,000 produce boxes and sell them for $20 each on Wednesday, May 20, at Dalton State College.

The Southern Rivers Energy Trust Board recently awarded $22,000 in emergency funding from its Operation Round Up grant program to five area food pantries to help their communities weather the pandemic.


[May 4, 2020 Update]

The Coweta-Fayette EMC Board of Directors approved a special retirement of capital credits totaling $5 million for all members who received electric service in 2019. Qualified members will receive the credit on their May electric bill.

“Our board’s action will help our members at a time many are struggling,” President and CEO Chris Stephens said. “This is just another way we are demonstrating we are about more than just providing electricity and making a profit. Our members are our friends and neighbors. I know by working together, we will all get through this. There are brighter days ahead.”

GreyStone Power’s Board of Directors approved a record $15 million capital credits early refund to help ease the hardship many members are facing. Those who were members in 2019 will see a credit, with 75 percent of residential members credited $50 or more on their May bills.

Jefferson Energy provided a catered lunch to health care workers at University Hospital McDuffie after initiating a local Support Local and Give Challenge on Facebook to show appreciation for those working the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to recognizing local health care workers, the cooperative hired a local business to cater the lunch to show further support for restaurants and caterers during a challenging time.

Middle Georgia EMC recently provided lunch for the hardworking staff at Crisp Regional Hospital to thank medical professionals for their service and sacrifice.

Through its Operation Round Up program, and through unclaimed capital credits, Walton EMC distributed $131,770 throughout the community in March to agencies that provide emergency food, shelter and medical needs. Recipients included Atlanta Community Food Bank, Partnership Against Domestic Violence, Salvation Army and United Way of Northeast Georgia, to name a few.


[April 20, 2020 Update]

In response to hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hart EMC directors approved approximately $1.5 million for an Emergency Member Refund Initiative at its April board meeting. The refund will be applied to May bills for current active members of Hart EMC, who were also members in 2019. The credit amount will be based on the amount of patronage contributed by each member in 2019.

Cobb EMC subsidiary Gas South recently announced it will donate more than $1 million this year to support families affected by the pandemic. Because the community need is so urgent, the company will deploy $850,000 of these funds in April. This 2020 strategy will represent the largest philanthropic commitment that Gas South has ever made.

As part of its Operation Round Up program, the Sawnee EMC Foundation announced the approval of more than $10,000 in emergency funding for summer lunch programs for local schools. The money will be used to assist 24 local schools served by Sawnee EMC in north Georgia. The newly approved emergency funds will help ensure at-risk students continue to receive lunch during the COVID-19 pandemic.


[April 9, 2020 Update]

As a result of growing community needs in response to the coronavirus health emergency, the Jackson EMC Foundation board of directors held a special meeting on March 31 to review applications for emergency support. The board awarded a total $142,257 in special grants to area organizations.

Central Georgia EMC has opened public Wi-Fi access outside its headquarters building in Jackson. Internet users can park in the customer parking lot, remain in their cars and complete essential work on the internet. There is no password required and the free service is available 24/7.

Habersham EMC’s “Be the Light” campaign is putting both employee and member donations to work in the community. EMC and Trailwave Fiber employees are making donations to local restaurants, one of which used the funds to provide food to Habersham Medical Center workers. Member contributions to the co-op’s Operation Round Up program will also provide five breakfasts and five lunches to 600 children in the Rabun County school system.

North Georgia EMC recently awarded local school systems with $50,000 in grants to assist with student meal programs and technology needed for remote learning during the pandemic. These grants were made possible by the generosity of co-op members who participate in the Operation Round Up program.

The Sawnee EMC Foundation recently awarded $200,000 to 20 local food pantries within the co-op’s service area. This donation was made possible by the more than 18,000 Sawnee EMC members who choose each month to round their electric bill up to the next highest dollar as a part of the Operation Round Up program.

 

Sawnee EMC board approves $10 M retirement of patronage capital 

 

In support of members who may be facing financial difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sawnee EMC announced yesterday its board has approved a special general retirement of patronage capital, totaling approximately $10 million, for all members who received service in 2019Current qualifying members should expect to see this refund applied to their April 2020 electric statement.

The Board also approved the delay of a scheduled base rate increase scheduled to go into effect on April 2. It will now be postponed for three months, with a new effective date of July 1.

     

Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, Habersham EMC Deploy Free Wi-Fi Hot Spots 

 

Since families and individuals are being forced to do school work and perform jobs remotely, Blue Ridge Mountain EMC and Habersham EMC (through its internet affiliate Trailwave) announced recently they have temporarily deployed free Wi-Fi services at a number of locations across their service territories. These sites will offer high-quality wireless signals utilizing a high speed fiber network that can be received by individuals simply by parking nearby and connecting to the service. 

     

Carroll EMC donates 300 medical masks

 

Carroll EMC: The Carrollton-based co-op recently donated 300 masks to Tanner Medical Center and is encouraging other businesses and individuals to donate N95-rated face masks to health care facilities and medical professionals.

     
Cobb EMC and Cobb EMC Community Foundation Give $10,000+  

Cobb EMC and the Cobb EMC Community Foundation have collectively given more than $10,000 in recent days to support community relief efforts. Employees have secured donations for local organizations feeding families and seniors and collected books to donate to civilians in quarantine at Dobbins Air Reserve Base and the Clay National Guard Center.

The foundation has also implemented a fast-track for funding requests in order to provide aid quickly to organizations that have received funding from them in the past three years.

 


Additional Measures to Assist

EMCs also are taking action both to prevent the spread of the illness and to protect the safety and health of employees, including:

  • Closing lobbies to walk-in traffic
  • Extending hours of operation at drive-thru windows
  • Implementing telecommuting for employees who can perform their duties remotely
  • Encouraging members to practice social distancing when approaching employees or crew members in the community
  • Cancelling external meetings and community events
  • Cancelling nonessential business travel
  • Using technology for meetings whenever possible

Since the full impact of COVID-19 is still unknown, co-ops are monitoring developments and following their business continuity plans, which have proved effective in responding to major weather events in recent years and include provisions for maintaining operations during a public health emergency.


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