Berkeley Electric Cooperative announced on Monday that it will be refunding customer security deposits, as a way to help customers weather the uncertain financial times ahead. Thousands of people in coastal South Carolina, where Berkeley Electric serves, have lost their jobs in recent weeks as the regional economy slows, and estimates by the College of Charleston are that the Charleston area will lose $523 million in just the next four weeks solely in the hospitality industry due to coronavirus.
The security deposit refund will total $4.8 million dollars and will be sent to more than 33,000 residential customers in the form of a bill credit, as opposed to cash. The Post & Courier reports the average security deposit refund will be $141 per customer, but some refunds will be more and some will be less. Berkeley Electric says it is issuing the refunds because:
“We know families will experience financial hardships because of the coronavirus — many members are already facing reduced employment or unemployment. You also need electricity more than ever as you follow health officials’ recommendations to stay home to slow the spread of the virus. We want to do everything in our power to help our members and the economy during this difficult time.”
In addition to providing refunds of security deposits, Berkeley Electric has also indefinitely suspended customer shutoffs due to nonpayment and is waiving late fees. These actions demonstrate Berkeley Electric’s commitment to helping customers through these hard times.
SACE applauds Berkeley Electric’s actions. We encourage other utilities to follow suit. Proactive steps to protect consumers will significantly benefit ratepayers and their communities during these economically volatile times.
Take action today and contact your elected officials to urge them to order utilities to suspend disconnections and waive late fees for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.