Utility bill grace period ending for Duke Energy customers

Better Call Behnken

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – If you are a Duke Energy customer and haven’t been able to pay your bill because of the pandemic, time is running out to come up with a plan.

Duke Energy customers started receiving letters Monday, warning that if they don’t start paying, they could have power disconnected as early as Sept. 3. Customers don’t have to pay their balance in full, but they do have to pay something, said Ana Gibbs, Duke Energy spokeswoman.

“It’s important to understand that there are customers that have not made payments since March,” Gibbs said. “If you just keep adding on and on it becomes harder and harder to pay off.”

When the pandemic started and thousands of Floridians lost jobs, power companies in Florida agreed to not turn off power for failure to make payments. Gibbs said Duke appears to be the first to start to phase out that policy, but she said others are likely to follow.

That doesn’t mean that you have to risk losing your power if you are in a financial hardship. If you are a Duke customer, Gibbs asks that you contact the company and discuss options. One option is a payment plan that gives you six months to catch up.

The other option, Gibbs said, is financial assistance, if you qualify. There are local and national programs that could help, and some have money set aside specifically to help people affected by the pandemic pay their utility bills.

“We want them to be sure that they find the financial assistance they need,” Gibbs said. “Some of the assistance won’t always be available.”

Duke Energy balances that are at least 60 days behind total around $18 million, compared to just $1 million this time last year, the company reports. Business accounts are $6 million behind, compared to $0.6 last year.

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