Just as with the rest of the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has created big challenges for Lake Region Electric Cooperative. Early on, we made an important assumption from which we implemented our pandemic plan. We assumed that the virus was already in our communities and could spread quickly.
At Lake Region Electric Cooperative, we strive to live out the guiding principles of cooperatives. One of the principles is Concern for Community. Living during a time of pandemic drives home that principle in new ways.
COVID-19 means we must do all we can to protect the health and safety of our employees and their families, as well as our cooperative members. This is of paramount importance.
We made a deliberate choice at the beginning of the outbreak to rethink all our actions. We’ve devised changes to our work processes that mitigate exposures and spread of the virus. Equally important is maintaining the level of service our members deserve and expect. We are still ready to help and serve you. Give us a call or visit our website.
In addition to closing our office to the public and meticulously cleaning our headquarters, and the other typical precautions we have heard so much about, we’ve embarked on several other actions:
- Training employees on how to work safely while keeping the appropriate distance from one another. This protocol must be followed even by our line workers outdoors.
- Using technology to hold meetings, including those of the board of directors.
- Utilizing virtual private networks so employees can work from home.
- Postponing some operations that are not required at this time.
As you might expect, these changes add another level of challenge to our work. However, our employees have found their rhythm and continue to work together to serve our members. We are prepared to continue with operations such as building new services, trimming trees and undergrowth below the power lines, and keeping up with routine maintenance and our construction work plan. We are keeping our robust inventory of materials and equipment. That being said, let’s also hope that our region is spared from severe weather events during this challenging time.
Once we are safely able to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, it will be interesting to see how it impacted electric consumption. Many business and commercial establishments have cut back operations or closed. Families are staying home and likely using more electricity during the work week than they normally would. Electric usage, as well as the revenue it produces, is changing due to COVID-19.
We understand that this is an uncertain financial time for many households. Financial hardship may affect families who have never experienced it before. Households may now be facing a time where a reduction in work hours or job loss might be the reality. Families could be forced to choose between paying bills and providing food. Energy Assistance hopes to bridge the gap for communities and families to offer aid and relief of burdens such as heating and electric bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minnesota State of Commerce Energy Assistance Program has increased the total crisis funds up to $1,200 per household. It now looks at the most current month’s GROSS income level, and the program has been extended to July 1st, 2020. There are new income guidelines for all applications that were signed on or after April 1st, 2020. Members should contact Energy Assistance for updated income guidelines and qualifying information. We are here to help you navigate this as well—please reach out to us if we can be of assistance.
We do encourage our members who can pay their bills to do so for the sake of keeping their accounts current and the cooperative’s financial health strong. After all, Lake Region is your electric cooperative and you are its member-owners.
Supplying electric service is an essential business. I want you to know that whatever this pandemic sends our way, we will come out stronger once we get through it. In the meantime, please know that Lake Region Electric Cooperative is still working for you. You can still call and have your questions answered. We are still responding to outage calls. Our work continues and we remain committed to serving you.