New Orleans-based utility Entergy Corp., the parent company of electricity utility Entergy Arkansas, has established the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to support households who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Entergy shareholders have committed $700,000 to the fund to help qualifying customers with basic needs such as food and nutrition, rent and mortgage assistance. Grants from the fund will be provided to United Way organizations and other nonprofit partners across Entergy’s service area that are providing services to impacted households.
The shareholders also will match employee contributions to the COVID-19 relief efforts of area United Way organizations up to $100,000.
“The health and safety of our customers, employees and communities is Entergy’s top priority,” said Leo Denault, chairman and CEO of Entergy. “For more than 100 years, Entergy has never wavered in our commitment to supporting our customers and the communities we serve. This pandemic is no different. During this challenging time, we are helping lessen the impact of this crisis on the most vulnerable in our communities. I strongly encourage our business partners to join us in this effort.”
The company has temporarily suspended customer disconnects. On March 16, Entergy Arkansas suspended service disconnections for 30 days, according to a letter by Laura Landreaux, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas.
Columbus, Ohio-based utility American Electric Power (AEP), the parent company of Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), also has temporarily suspended all service disconnections for non-payment. Entergy and AEP encouraged customers to continue to pay their bills and to call if they have trouble making payments to discuss payment options.
About 40% to 50% of Entergy’s customer base comprises low-wage working families and low-income elderly and disabled customers.
“We know from experience that working families and low-income elderly and disabled customers are hardest hit during times of crisis,” said Patty Riddlebarger, vice president of Entergy’s corporate social responsibility. “We are working quickly to make funds available to community partners that serve vulnerable households to lessen the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis and ensure that families have the resources they need to get by during this time of uncertainty.”
Entergy also has The Power to Care program to provide emergency bill payment assistance to seniors and disabled customers. The company is marking the 20th anniversary of the low-income customer initiative by increasing the limit of shareholders’ dollar for dollar match of customer donations from $500,000 to $1 million per year.
Entergy Arkansas also recently announced it would reduce residential customer rates by 4% starting in April.
Parent company Entergy Corp. delivers electricity to customers in four states, including 700,000 customers in 63 Arkansas counties.