A red cloud of dirt surrounds 7-year-old Hudson as he sprints to first base, the increasing Florida heat beating down on his mother, Melissa Booher, and her family as they cheer him on. By the end of the game, his white pants will be covered in copper stains as he stands, beaming, for a family picture.
The family will leave the baseball diamond and over the next week head indoors to cheerleading competition and tumbling class, bowling, and afterschool activities at their Miami Springs community center. Like many families, Booher, her husband, and their three children are always on the go.
In addition to coordinating her family’s schedule, Booher heads to work at Florida Power & Light Company. There, she leads a team that helps families across Florida with financial challenges when summer heat and energy bills rise as air conditioner units use more electricity to keep homes and businesses cool. Booher’s FPL Customer Advocacy team connects elderly and low-income customers with programs and organizations offering financial assistance on energy bills.
“If the customer has reached our team, it's likely because their issue was too complex to be resolved by self-service channels or their personal circumstances require special handling,” said an effervescent Booher, who has worked at FPL for 22 years. “We take a lot of pride and joy in finding win-win solutions for our customers and our company.”
Customer service has been at the heart of Booher’s career from the beginning. She was an FPL summer intern in high school and a customer service representative through college, deciding to stay with the company after she earned her degree. She became a customer service trainer and then leader of the customer advocacy team, having done every job that her employees now do.
“It takes a dedicated person, a person who is creative, a critical thinker and someone who truly wants to help,” said Booher, proudly describing her employees.
Organizations that work with FPL’s Customer Advocacy team say the need has been growing and customers who receive information and assistance are grateful.
"During the summer months, when electric bills are higher, Florida Power & Light understands the challenges their vulnerable customers face in managing their energy expenses, said Ashley Jones, director of social services for The Salvation Army of Collier County. “The dedicated work of Melissa and her team empowers customers and helps them navigate through these challenging periods with dignity and peace of mind.”
Another way FPL helps customers is through the Care to Share program. Last year, after seeing an increased demand for financial assistance among customers, FPL changed the qualifying criteria, making help available to more customers. In the past, the program used the same criteria used at the federal level. A family of four qualified if the household income was $35,000 or less, which is 150% of the federal poverty level. Booher and her team argued that people who make more are still in need.
“They are one crisis away, one flat tire, one broken arm or unexpected doctor visit from not being able to pay their electric bill,” said Booher, who pushed to adopt the same criteria used by The United Way, which allowed the income to be $70,000 for a family of four. We are now able to help a population of customers currently underserved by federal programs.
Through Care to Share, customers qualify for up to $500 toward their monthly FPL bill. In addition, after Hurricane Ian in 2022, the program assisted hurricane victims make electrical repairs to their homes. Booher and her team helped nearly 1,000 customers last year and continue to work with organizations such as The Salvation Army to help even more customers in need of financial assistance.
“We identify these customers proactively and we show them the resources available to them,” said Booher. “For a team like mine, there’s an innate desire to help and what motivates us is customers who come back and express their gratitude with notes and calls that say, ‘FPL is lucky to have you’; that’s what keeps people on the job.”
If you or someone you know needs financial assistance with energy bills, visit FPL.com/Help.