JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Florida Power & Light Company today announced it plans to begin offering direct relief to customers significantly behind on their FPL bills due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to those customers who have diligently paid their bills but still have a deposit with the company.
Residential and small business customers may be eligible for a bill credit of up to $200 based on the status of their account and how long the account has been past due. To receive the direct relief, eligible customers will need to pay their total outstanding balance, net of the bill credit. For example, an eligible customer who has a total outstanding balance of $600 would need to pay $400 to qualify for the maximum one-time credit of $200. FPL will communicate directly with eligible customers to explain the steps required to obtain the bill relief.
“We’re all in this together and FPL remains committed to doing everything we can to support customers experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “The Florida Public Service Commission has been very supportive of our efforts to provide assistance to customers during this difficult time. Accelerating the return of deposit money to customers who have been able to pay their bills and offering direct relief to customers significantly behind on their bills is another example of FPL’s continued commitment to finding ways to help support customers experiencing hardship and ensuring we’re meeting the needs of all of our more than 5.1 million customers.”
In addition to direct bill relief, significant federal funding remains available to help customers pay utility bills. Federal funding for Florida’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has increased nearly 60% due to the pandemic. FPL estimates more than $30 million in LIHEAP funding is still available to its customers. Customers can also apply for available CARES Act money that’s been distributed to communities across the state. Additionally, FPL’s Care to Share Program, which provides bill payment assistance to customers, has been expanded due to the pandemic to support customers. FPL is working to enhance the program, offering customers who pay electronically opportunities to contribute set monthly amounts, one-time donations or the option to round up their bill to the nearest dollar as a voluntary contribution.
Returning deposits early for residential customers requires approval from the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). Accordingly, FPL has filed for permission to do so and has requested an expedited ruling for this request. FPL is also planning to accelerate deposit refunds for eligible small business customers, depending on rate class.
“Some customers struggling during these challenging times have continued to fulfill their personal responsibility for their FPL bill,” Silagy said. “Given these unique circumstances, we believe returning deposits now is the right thing to do, a good way to get more money back in their pockets faster and a great benefit to Florida’s economy.”
Refining COVID-19 policies
In mid-March, FPL immediately began offering payment extensions and waiving late fees for customers experiencing hardship due to the pandemic, policies that remain in effect. During that time, the company also suspended disconnections for nonpayment and has continued doing so for nearly six months. Through a measured approach, FPL will resume issuing final notices this month beginning with customer accounts that have been past due since before COVID-19 became widespread in March; however, FPL is temporarily extending the time for a customer to arrange payment for past-due balances by an additional week following the issuance of a final notice. For customer accounts that receive a final notice but do not pay their past-due balance or contact FPL to make payment arrangements, disconnections are planned to begin in October.
“Disconnection is always a last resort. We are working to find every possible way to help our customers avoid disconnection for nonpayment. There is funding available from numerous sources, and our customer care team is helping walk customers through the process of accessing this funding,” said FPL Vice President of Customer Service Christopher Chapel. “The vast majority of customers behind on their bill have not contacted us for help, despite our widespread outreach efforts. Our message to customers in need is simple: ‘Call us. We’re here to help’.”
Customers can learn about available resources at FPL.com/Help and they can call FPL directly and toll-free at 800-226-3545.
FPL’s COVID-19 response
FPL has had a pandemic plan in place for many years and regularly trains and drills for unplanned events and crises. The company understands the critical role electricity plays in the economy and daily lives of Floridians, and regardless of the circumstances FPL remains steadfastly committed to continuously delivering the reliable and affordable electricity that everyone relies on.
FPL gained unanimous approval from the PSC to fast-track annual fuel savings to customers on their May bills, resulting in a one-time bill decrease of approximately 25% for the typical 1,000-kWh monthly residential customer bill. Additionally, FPL, its fellow NextEra Energy companies and employees have so far committed nearly $5 million in COVID-19 emergency assistance funds that are being distributed directly to those in need and to partner organizations working on the frontlines of the crisis to provide critical support to the most vulnerable members of the community.
Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the largest energy company in the United States as measured by retail electricity produced and sold, serving more than 5.1 million customer accounts or an estimated 10 million+ people across the state of Florida. FPL’s typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 30% lower than the latest national average and among the lowest in the U.S. FPL’s service reliability is better than 99.98%, and its highly fuel-efficient power plant fleet is one of the cleanest among all electric companies nationwide. The company was recognized in 2019 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Escalent for the sixth consecutive year. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,900 employees, FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), a clean energy company widely recognized for its efforts in sustainability, ethics and diversity, and has been ranked No. 1 in the electric and gas utilities industry in Fortune’s 2020 list of “World’s Most Admired Companies.” NextEra Energy is also the parent company of Gulf Power Company, which serves more than 470,000 customers in eight counties throughout northwest Florida, and NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which, together with its affiliated entities, is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun and a world leader in battery storage. For more information about NextEra Energy companies, visit these websites: www.NextEraEnergy.com, www.FPL.com, www.GulfPower.com, www.NextEraEnergyResources.com.