While there is no scientific support for the belief that bad things “come in threes,” in my first year at Cloverland, it seems to hold true. Last November’s storm knocked out power to thousands of our members over Thanksgiving. The New Year’s ice and windstorm caused interruptions to more than half our members. Now we are in the midst of a pandemic which has not been seen in a century.
Storm events come and go and the outcome can be dealt with swiftly with minor impact to our members. The COVID-19 pandemic holds many unknowns, making it difficult to determine how to manage it with any certainty. Unlike a storm, this pandemic does not allow us to send our tremendous crews into a ferocious storm to clear trees and restore power. The restoration of our communities and livelihoods for our members is certainly on the forefront of our minds.
To ensure your co-op could meet the challenges presented from the pandemic’s onset, we established an internal COVID-19 task force whose efforts continue daily. Focusing on the safety of our members and staff, we quickly implemented teleworking and social distancing protocols while providing safe and reliable service. We continue to monitor and adapt operations according to state and federal recommendations.
It has been Cloverland’s practice to follow state guidelines for disconnecting services for non-payment (traditionally April 15). As that date rapidly approached, Cloverland extended the disconnect of services for non-payment until at least April 30 to align with the President’s social distancing directive. Shortly after that extension, Cloverland modified the date through the end of May as the pandemic showed no signs of letting up, and the Governor’s Executive Orders for social distancing were expanded.
As a not-for-profit electric co-op, our rates are designed to keep costs low for our members, yet still allow us to meet minimum borrowing requirements after subtracting operating costs. It means our margins (or “profit” for investor-owned utilities) are typically minimal. Despite the challenge, staff is working closely with MECA, NRECA, MPSC, USDA/RUS, and state and federal representatives to identify every available resource to help members impacted by this pandemic. We are working closely with our board of directors to monitor developments and seek opportunities to balance our financial requirements with those of our members.
To get through this challenging time, it will require efforts by all. If it is difficult to pay your electric bill, I urge you to contact our member services team (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at (800) 562-4953 to discuss flexible payment options and resources for assistance. Recently, President Trump signed a $2 trillion-dollar package providing financial support to those impacted by COVID-19. Cloverland published guidance for those in need through our website, social media channels, and member services team. We will continue to refine guidance as additional programs become available. It is important that members who have an immediate need utilize available government programs first. If possible, consider making partial payments on your balance to avoid a large multi-month balance when the pandemic subsides.
This COVID-19 pandemic came with no playbook, yet working together in true co-op spirit, we will get through this unprecedented time in our history. I am proud to serve all 33,500 members of our co-op and thank you for your continued understanding and support.
Michael (Mike) Heise