Wednesday, May 12, 2021
May 12, 2021

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Energy Adviser: Remain vigilant to avoid scammers

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The tumult and discord of the last year are without precedent in modern America, and so many people from across the country and our friends and neighbors here in Clark County have found themselves in circumstances they could have never imagined.

Early in the pandemic, Clark Public Utilities took quick action to help its customers navigate financial challenges. Eligibility and documentation requirements were adjusted to allow households experiencing very sudden income loss to qualify, and benefit limits for its financial assistance programs were increased. The utility also suspended all disconnections for nonpayment well ahead of state directives and ensured all customers had power and water since last March.

Recently, the utility’s Board of Commissioners directed $20 million in surplus revenues to be proportionately distributed back to customers in the form of a bill credit, based on consumption. The credit will be applied to accounts in April, and the board also directed an additional $5 million of 2020 surplus funds be set aside to assist customers who’ve faced economic hardships due to the pandemic.

Federal, state and local governments as well as private organizations have also offered various types of assistance to help people endure the recession. Unfortunately, some companies and even scammers have tried to leverage the pandemic and people’s uncertainty to take advantage of vulnerable people.

It’s important that customers remain vigilant to avoid scams, but staying informed about the numerous programs available can be hard- knowing which offers are legitimate and which are too good to be true is even harder.

“No doubt, this is a very uncertain time for many of our customers and they might have questions about utility bills or financial assistance programs,” said Clark Public Utilities Director of Customer Service Lisa Fix. “We want them to know that we’re here to help get them the answers they need and separate energy assistance facts from fiction.”

Customer service lobbies remain closed to protect the health of our customers and critical service employees. However, customer service representatives are available by phone or email 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and ready to help answer your questions, make payment arrangements, offer financial assistance information and much more. Simply call 360-992-3000 or email your questions to mailbox@clarkpud.com anytime. You can also find information about financial assistance and many other subjects on the website: clarkpublicutilities.com.

“Our customer service team doesn’t have call time limits or scripts or anything of that nature. We’re real people and our only goal is to provide customers with excellent service,” Fix said. “When customers call our representatives have the tools and the time they need to help as much as possible.”

Customers should always keep their guards up whenever someone claiming to be from the utility contacts them – in person or over the phone. In those cases, they should hang up or close the door and call the utility directly to verify the contact is being made by an actual Clark Public Utilities employee. This is especially critical during the pandemic because the utility is not doing any disconnections due to late payment.

“A utility employee will never argue or hesitate to share identification if a customer wants to be cautious,” Fix said. “Utility employees should be in marked vehicles, wearing branded clothing, have visible identification and even still it’s always smart to call us directly, anytime, to verify a contact was made by an actual employee before providing any personal or payment information.”

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.

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