CORONAVIRUS, Oregon, utilities

Past-due PGE customers may qualify for matching grant to pay bills

Power lines near Forest Grove. File photo: Chas Hundley

Portland General Electric sent an email to some customers on March 10 announcing it will match customer’s payments on past-due balances between April 1 and June 30.

“It’s been a tough year, but you’re not alone in dealing with your past-due bill,” the email states. 

PGE will make matching payments dollar for dollar up to $500, and past-due payments don’t have to be made all at once — customers may stretch them out between April 1 and June 30.

Enrollment in the program is as simple as clicking on the “join the bill assistance program” button-style link in the email and the user automatically is enrolled. 

The link takes PGE’s customers to a landing page that says “Let’s meet halfway with bill assistance,” and “Thank you for enrolling. You don’t need to call us. Just make your payment, and we’ll take care of the rest.”

PGE also has a dedicated webpage providing information about all the different types of help it’s offering the many customers who faced or are facing difficult times since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. 

Oregonians could use the break PGE is offering after what the year 2020 laid upon its residents — one disaster after another. 

First, the COVID-19 outbreak hit one year ago this month, which resulted in the ensuing lockdown and crashing economy. Exacerbating the stress of an already anxious Oregon population, the state botched the distribution of unemployment benefits right at a time when people were caught off guard with little to no money in savings when the recession bore down fast and hard.  

A June 9, 2020 MarketWatch report found that 57 percent of Americans have $500 or less available in case of an emergency and that two out of every five Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Nearly 25 percent of Americans have no emergency savings at all. 

Making matters worse, after living with the pandemic for one year now, it’s still difficult to get through to a customer service representative when calling the phone number for the Oregon Unemployment Department, as the Salem Statesman Journal reported March 10.

Oregon also experienced the worst wildfire season in history with more than 1 million acres burned in 2020. The towns of Detroit, Blue River, Vida, Phoenix, and Talent were all but destroyed, and thousands of other people evacuated their businesses and houses for several days, some returning to nothing left but burning embers on the foundation of what was once their homes. 

And of course last month in February 2021 an ice storm knocked out electricity and water for more than 330,000 Oregonians across the state and for longer than a week in many places. 

Additionally, PGE is extending a helping hand via its philanthropic arm, the PGE Foundation, by committing $225,000 to local nonprofits to help electricity customers in the five counties that were hit the hardest by the February ice storm  — Clackamas ($75,000), Marion ($75,000), Multnomah ($35,000), Yamhill ($25,000), and Washington ($15,000). 

PGE plans to collaborate with county officials to determine which local nonprofits are most in need of funds now. The utility aims to emphasize providing funding to nonprofits that helped customers during the ice storm, including services for low-income residents, seniors, veterans, and assistance providing basic needs for others, such as clothing, emergency preparedness, food, household items, and shelter.

“We know you rely on us to provide reliable power and losing power for many days can be frustrating and challenging,” said Dave Robertson, vice-chair of the PGE Foundation Board of Directors. “We appreciate the ongoing partnerships with county and local response organizations to help people during the storm and now that the ice has melted we’ll continue to work with each community to target assistance to those who need it most.”

Visit the PGE Foundation website here to learn how nonprofits can apply for funding.  

Customers needing assistance paying their electric bill are asked to call PGE customer service at 503-228-6322 or 800-542-8818.

Click here to learn even more about additional PGE bill-payment assistance programs.

Information from PGE on payment assistance also is available on its website in Spanish

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