By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
Snohomish County’s Public Utilities District No.1 (PUD) is offering customers relief during the unprecedented economic circumstances posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
In response to Gov. Inslee’s March “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, the PUD has suspended utility disconnections and late fees during the COVID-19 pandemic, to reduce the sequential financial impacts on those with limited to no incoming household income.
The PUD is offering payment assistance and arrangements through extending its availability of budgeted payment plans and enhancements to its income-qualified assistance program to qualifying customers. The utility company has also created a community support plan to allocate bill credit available to both residential and business owner customers.
“This is an evolving situation, and we see this as a needs-based plan that can quickly serve our customers who have had their lives turned upside down,” said PUD Assistant General Manager of Customer and Energy Services Pam Baley. “For customers in need now, we want to help with their utility bill so they can take care of what really matters.”
With so many Snohomish County residents staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, many are seeing higher than anticipated electrical bills despite a reported decrease in power consumption throughout the county.
Comparing this March and April’s power bills to the corresponding months in 2019, PUD customer energy consumption throughout Snohomish County and Camano Island were down by 5%.
“We think that based on some limited data we have, that was mostly driven by the fact that we have businesses that have closed down,” stated PUD spokesperson Cayle Thompson.
According to Thompson, electricity usage is down solely because the commercial side of the energy provided by the PUD has decreased by 15%. Residential consumption is contrastingly up by about 5% to 10% due to people’s increased time at home.
“People are just using more energy in general, and so residential is just a little bit higher,” explained Thompson. “More people are staying home, are working from home, they’re using computers, and they’re watching more television.”
In response to higher household utility bills, the PUD is encouraging people to use energy-saving strategies to reduce use and expenses. Customers facing financial difficulty are also encouraged to contact the PUD about the community support plan at 425-783-1000.