La Plata Electric Association has delayed an April 1 rate increase until July 1 to help consumers deal with COVID-19 pandemic.
LPEA’s board of directors Wednesday approved a rescue package that includes the delayed rate increase and allocates $90,000 in unclaimed capital credits to utility bill assistance and emergency response programs.
The cooperative, which provides electricity to La Plata and Archuleta counties, previously announced it would suspend disconnects for nonpayment for residential and small-business users until further notice. LPEA members are still expected to pay their bills through a flexible payment plan or funding assistance.
“LPEA is a not-for-profit electric cooperative, which means it is owned and operated by its members at cost,” said Bob Lynch, LPEA board president. “We, the board and LPEA employees, are a part of the communities we serve, and we want to do what we can to help our neighbors in this time of need. We do not take these decisions lightly, as they will put additional financial and administrative pressure on the organization, but we feel strongly that this is the right thing to do.”
Delaying the effective date of the rate increase for three months will cost LPEA an estimated $1 million. The board voted to offset the cost by withdrawing funds from LPEA’s emergency rate stabilization fund, which was created in 2019 to safeguard business operations in emergency situations.
The board unanimously approved the increase in January to generate funds to improve LPEA infrastructure and reliability, and to keep up with inflation.
Payments made by LPEA members that exceed the cost required for electric service are placed into a patronage capital account in each member’s name and referred to as “capital credits” until the co-op can return them to members as bill credits or by check. Checks that are not cashed after three years will be considered “unclaimed.”
Unclaimed capital credits typically are assigned to community causes. LPEA said it would assign $90,000 as follows:
$50,000 will assist LPEA members who cannot pay their bills because of job loss and business closure.$25,000 will go to the Community Emergency Response Fund.$7,500 will go to the Community Emergency Action Coalition and the Pagosa Outreach Coalition.For more information, members can call LPEA at 247-5786.
LPEA is a member-owned, nonprofit cooperative that distributes electricity to La Plata and Archuleta counties, with segments of Hinsdale, Mineral and San Juan counties. It has about 34,000 members.