In the past eight days, 1,897 had had their power disconnected by NES, during a time when temperatures dipped below freezing, and the pandemic rages on.
News4 Investigates obtained the figure while researching why a grandmother had her power suddenly turned off after she thought she had paid her bill in full while battling COVID.
Donna, who asked that we not use her last name, said even though she was fighting the coronavirus in the hospital late last month, she still wanted to make sure her bills were paid.
From her hospital bed, she called NES’ automated line to find out her bill was $185.25, and then paid that amount.
But when she returned home and worked with her grandchildren on zoom classes Wednesday, the power suddenly went out at 9 a.m.
“It’s 28 degrees outside. It didn’t take long for the weather to get cold in the house,” Donna said.
The disconnection of the 1,897 people comes as NES posts on social media a series of videos with the hashtag #helpishere, talking about the services available to help pay past due amounts.
When Donna came home from the hospital and lost power, she looked at her actual paper bill and saw she too had a past due amount of $92.
“You’re still wanting to make money off the most marginalized people,” Donna said.
NES said a spokesperson for the company was not available this week but stated in a series of emails, “NES never wants to disconnect our customers….We put a hold on disconnections and late fees after the March tornado and extended that period through October.”
Donna immediately paid her bill and got her power back on, but she worries about those who cannot.
“Where does that leave them? In the cold. And it’s still cold,” Donna said.
News4 Investigates is asking NES for an explanation as to why Donna’s full amount was not on the automated line when she inquired what she owed, and NES is researching to find out.
To make matters worse, Donna had to pay a reconnection fee.
“If life was normal, I get it. But life’s not normal for any of us,” she said.