N.O. City Council to Approve $22M for Unemployed Entergy Customers
NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans City Council said it is poised to approve the creation of a $22M direct bill assistance program for unemployed Entergy customers. The council said the fund represents the largest single local source of direct assistance available to New Orleanians.
“The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have created an unprecedented crisis for our community. That’s why I believe we must have an unprecedented response to give a lifeline for our most impacted people,” said Utilities Committee Chair Helena Moreno. “The City Council Cares’ (CCC) $22M in direct bill assistance will cushion the economic damage our community is suffering with no additional costs. In fact, it will actually save all ratepayers money on their bills.”
In order to qualify for this bill assistance, current Entergy customers would simply have to submit proof of unemployment since March 29. Those approved would then receive $400 of direct credits on their Entergy bills, or about $100 a month. The average Entergy bill is about $110 a month, meaning this program could cover 90% of that monthly bill. The program would also waive late fees accumulated during the affected period.
“This is good news,” said Moreno. “Bill credits of this size and scope don’t just help those struggling with their bills. They help mitigate and avoid future added costs or rate increases due to the pandemic for all Entergy New Orleans customers. The company has lost tens of millions of dollars due to up to 40% of their customers being behind on their bills. Unpaid bills end up costing all of us through rate hikes – by providing this assistance, we’re saving all ratepayers money. It’s a win-win.”
The council said the funding for CCC comes from a federal legal settlement and excess disaster preparedness reserves, which the council – as Entergy New Orleans’ sole regulator under the Charter and established law – has the authority to use for a relief package such as this one. Even after the enactment of this program, Entergy New Orleans will maintain over $67M in storm reserves in case of any further disaster.
The CCC is expected to go live in early summer, with the first bill credits delivered in time for the July billing cycle. Customers will be notified by paper bill-insert, text message, web presence, social media and other means when the program goes live. The Council expects formal communication from Entergy to launch sometime in the next 30 days.