RENSSELAER — Jasper County REMC, a local not-for-profit electric cooperative, has found many ways to support its members during the COVID-19 crisis. One of those ways, is to lower the disconnection and reconnection fees. Although the governor had put a moratorium on disconnections until Aug. 14, the cooperative wanted to go a few steps beyond that to benefit the membership.
REMC CEO, Bryan Washburn commented, “We now have the technology in place to perform the disconnect and reconnect processes from our office. Most of our meters no longer require a service truck or field personnel to be turned off and on, so it is only fair that we lower the cost when we can.”
The new technology has been put in place over the last two years and also allows the consumer to use the cooperative’s self-help SmartHub tools through the website or app. As the cooperative expands its technology, there may be additional benefits to the members.
Washburn continued, “We are always looking for ways to provide maximum benefits to the members when we make investments in technology and infrastructure.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, the co-op had also made other accommodations for the members. The biggest accommodation was to cancel a scheduled rate and facility charge adjustment that was planned to take effect in May of 2020. The REMC board and management team knew that the adjustment would have to be rescheduled as to not put immediate additional hardship on the membership.
The cooperative has also changed many internal practices during this time to benefit the member and has developed a new payment option – Prepaid Electric Service. This option allows people to pay for electricity before they use it. Office Manager Patti Lindahl said, “Think of this as filling up your gas tank. When the gauge says you’re getting low, you fill it up again. Our new technology allows members to do that now with electricity.”
The cooperative’s SmartHub tools will let the member know when the balance is getting low so a payment can be made to keep the power on. The payments will also go through SmartHub or the automated phone system. Lindahl said, “Perhaps the best benefit of the program is that it does not require a deposit. You are paying as you go, so we don’t need one.”
As mentioned, the governor had established a moratorium on disconnections. Another way the cooperative went one step further was to not charge penalties during that time. Washburn said, “Aside from rescheduling the rate change, encouraging partial payments, developing the prepaid program and coming up with additional payment plans for our members, we felt that waiving the penalties was just one more ‘right thing to do’ for the members.”
The cooperative encourages any member who needs help getting caught up on their electric bill to call the office (219-866-4601) and discuss programs and payment arrangements. Lindahl concluded, “Our goal is that we work with everyone to avoid a future cut-off date. We haven’t determined that date yet because we want everyone to get caught up.”
The Jasper County Rural Electric Membership Corporation (REMC) was formed in 1938 and is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative based in Rensselaer, Indiana. This Touchstone Energy cooperative serves over 8,800 meters across almost 1,200 miles of line in northwest Indiana: primarily in Jasper County. The goal of the cooperative is to provide their members with reliable electric service at the lowest cost possible.