Just over three weeks after the Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the utility is making adjustments to assist customers impacted by the virus.
On Wednesday, the board met in emergency session to pass a resolution which will give General Manager Dave Ward the authority to expand the use of the PUD’s existing assistance programs and practices. Thus far, they have included the waiving of late fees, the use of donated Project Help dollars to assist customers and delaying the disconnection of power on delinquent accounts. In addition the utility has chosen to delay a projected 2% rate increase that was to have gone into effect on May 1st.
“This resolution opens more avenues for our Customer Service staff to help customers who have been impacted by COVID-19,” said Board President Russ Skolrood. “If you are having trouble paying your monthly bill related to the COVID-19 pandemic, please call the PUD immediately.”
As part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, an addition $900-million has been appropriated for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP. The resolution adopted by the utility is designed to help bridge the gap between now and the enactment of the federal assistance programs.
“The weight of the circumstances facing some of our customers is becoming heavier and heavier,” said Ward. “If you take the time to contact the PUD, programs are there to lessen the load.”
The PUD Customer Service office can be reached at (360) 532-4220. Account information can also be found online at ghpud.org or on the SmartHub mobile app. Customers who wish to donate to Project Help may do so by filling out the donation section found on the left side of their monthly return invoice, offering a donation of $1.00, $5.00 or “other” where customers may write in the amount they wish to donate.
In response to the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order put in place by Governor Jay Inslee, the PUD has embraced social distancing by setting up remote work stations for employees, both at home and throughout PUD facilities. In this way the PUD is able to maintain the critical services they provide to the Grays Harbor community while ensuring a safe and healthy working environment for utility staff.
In a time of crisis, the willingness of a community to lend a hand is never more important. As the Grays Harbor PUD helps customers in need cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reminding its customers of an opportunity to help those struggling to pay their monthly power bill.
“For several years, the PUD’s customers have made donations to the Project Help program to help their neighbors and community members during difficult financial times. It is times like these that this assistance can really make a difference in our customer’s lives” said Customer Service Director Katy Moore. “We want our customers to know how they may make donations so we can continue to help those in need.”
Customers who wish to donate to Project Help may do so by filling out the donation section found on the left side of their monthly return invoice, offering a donation of $1.00, $5.00 or “other” where customers may write in the amount they wish to donate. Donations may also be made by contacting PUD Customer Service at (360) 532-4220.
As customers adapt to the struggles caused by the COVID-19, the PUD is providing some relief by eliminating late charges on accounts that become delinquent in March and April, postponing a 2% rate increase and continuing to urge customers who are struggling to pay monthly power bills to contact Customer Service at (360) 532-4220.
Keeping the lights on and providing customer service remain the priorities for the Grays Harbor PUD as the utility adapts to the new reality of business amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
“Utility crews continue to maintain the PUD system and respond to outages and our customer service office has changed some practices but continue to work with our customers,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “The utility will adapt to this new reality and continue to provide the critical services our customers expect.”
The Grays Harbor PUD is encouraging customers to contact the utility Customer Service office if they feel they may have difficulty paying their monthly power bill due to the COVID-19. The utility has also announced that it will waive late charges on accounts that become past due in the months of March and April and postponed a scheduled rate increase.
“I can’t emphasize enough that if you fear that you may have trouble making a power payment, you should contact our office. Our staff is ready to help in this time of uncertainty,” said Customer Service Director Katy Moore.
Externally, the utility has closed its public lobbies and encouraged customers to use online (www.ghpud.org) or mobile apps (SmartHub) to pay utility bills. Those who wish to pay in person may use the Customer Service drive thru. The Customer Service staff is also available to answer questions over the phone at (360) 532-4220. Internally, the PUD has emphasized the practice of social distancing, regular hand washing and has allowed some employees to work from home when possible to reduce person to person contact.
The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency as the utility deals with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commissioners approved the resolution at a special board meeting on Tuesday that allows General Manager Dave Ward to take “appropriate and legal action to ensure the health and safety of utility employees and the public.”
“The goal of this resolution is to allow for swift and necessary action to protect utility staff and ensure our ability to provide critical utility services to the public,” said Board President Russ Skolrood. “The severity of the situation calls for the Board to undertake unprecedented measures to ensure a safe environment, a healthy staff and our ability to serve our customers.”
Under the resolution, the General Manager is authorized to declare a state of emergency and take action related to the COVID-19 threat. The Board will receive regular updates from the General Manager and will withdraw the emergency authority when the crisis situation has abated.
For the time being the utility will continue to offer customer service which encompasses the now common practice of social distancing. Public lobbies have been closed with customers now encouraged to use online or mobile devices to pay bills or use the Customer Service drive-thru window. Customers who encounter difficulty paying utility bills as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak are encouraged to contact Customer Service at (360) 532-4220. In addition, the Board has agreed to postpone a proposed 2% rate increase which was to have taken effect on May 1. The increase, driven by rising costs in the power market, will not be enacted until after the COVID-19 crisis has lessened.
In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Grays Harbor PUD has announced that it will close its Customer Service and Energy Services lobby to public access, effective Monday, March 16 at 8:00 AM. The utility will maintain regular staffing and hours with customer service being provided through the drive thru window, telephone communications and online and mobile device access.
“The PUD provides a critical public service and we will continue to do so,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “By limiting face to face access, we are following CDC recommendations on how to limit the spread of the virus, while still serving our customers.”
Beginning Monday, customers wishing to speak to a customer service representative or to pay their utility bill will have the following options:
- Calling the Customer Service Department at (360) 532-4220 during regular business hours, Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm.
- Making the payment through the drive-thru window, located on the east side of the PUD’s Sumner Avenue Administration Building
- Dropping payments in the payment drop box located in the main parking lot of the Administration Building
- Making payments online at www.ghpud.org or using the SmartHub app on mobile devices
Customers wishing to speak with the Energy Services Department or learn more about offers through the department may do so by calling (360) 538-6383 or by clicking on the “Energy Savings” icon at www.ghpud.org.
Customers wishing to speak to the Engineering Department may call (360) 538-6524 to be connected to a Customer Service Engineer.
Utility operations crews will continue field work and respond to power outages and will continue to make power restorations in the safest and quickest manner possible.