Millions of people across the country are experiencing the financial impacts of COVID-19. If you’re one of them, you may be worried about keeping the lights on.

Many area utility companies are offering assistance in the form of payment plans and extensions so customers have one less thing to worry about in the midst of a global pandemic.

“At a time when people across not only our nation, but across the world find themselves dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, I want to take a few minutes to assure you NPPD is doing all we can to lessen your burden of worry, specifically when it comes to electric reliability,” Timothy Arlt, vice president of Nebraska Public Power, said, in an email sent to customers.

Arlt said NPPD doesn’t anticipate any loss of electric services because of the pandemic and said they are “pro-actively working with customers who are affected by COVID-19.”

“If you have been directly impacted financially due to COVID-19, please contact us, we’re here to work with you to keep your electrical service intact, because we know how vital it is to all our lives,” Arlt wrote.

He noted that all NPPD offices have been closed to walk-in traffic as a precaution, but customer support specialists are available at 1-877-275-6773.

NPPD also offers the Pennies for Power program, even when there isn’t a virus plaguing the nation. The program was established to help disadvantage families pay their utility expenses. The program is administered by Nebraska 2-1-1 and hosted by the United Way of the Midlands, according to the NPPD website.

Those who need help from Pennies for Power can apply by calling 2-1-1 or 402-444-6666 and referring to the Pennies for Power program.

Those who would like to contribute can call the NPPD customer service line, email webeditor@nppd.com or mail a one-time donation to Pennies for Power, Nebraska Public Power District, PO Box 499, Columbus NE 68602-0499. An assistance form can also be found on nppd.com.

Black Hills Energy also takes donations which it matches and gives to the Salvation Army of Nebraska to help with utility bills. Additionally, BHE is taking steps to help customers stretch their funds a little farther.

“To support customers who may be impacted by the nation’s response to COVID-19, Black Hills Energy is temporarily suspending nonpayment disconnections for our customers,” Black Hills Energy community affairs manager Melissa Garcia said.

The company offers assistance options including payment arrangements, budget billing and medical extensions. Customer care specialists can be reached at 1-88-890-5554 and more information is available on blackhillsenergy.com.

Garcia also pointed to 2-1-1, saying it “connections millions of people to help with essential needs.”

For Torrington residents, the city has also postponed non-payment disconnections until April 16. In a public service announcement on Wednesday, the city encouraged residents to contact Goshen HELP at 307-532-0269 or at goshenhelp.com, and LIEAP at 1-800-246-4221 or lieapwyo.org for information about assistance options.

Tiphanie Fuss, office manager at Wyrulec, which services areas of eastern Wyoming, said the company is working to provide one-on-one service to customers who need help.

“We assist in providing members contact information for payment assistance and options available based on their individual situation,” she said.

She encouraged customers who are struggling to contact the company at 800-628-5266 as soon as possible to determine what options are available to them.

The cities of Gering and Alliance have not set up special parameters due to COVID-19, but are willing to work with customers.

“At this time our policy has not changed as we already have allowed for payment arrangements,” Gering city treasurer Renee Jimenez said.

She encouraged customers who were concerned about paying their bill to contact the office at 308-436-6800 for information.

Similarly, Alliance’s finance director, Randy Waggener, said the normal avenues of assistance are available.

“With easier access to unemployment and leave, hopefully most people will be covered,” Waggener said, but for those who aren’t, “we have always worked with customers one-on-one with their unique situations and will continue to do so.”

Chimney Rock Public Power District will also allow for payment arrangements and directs customers to area organizations such as Salvation Army, Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska, the Department of Health and Human Services and area churches for additional assistance.

If you receive service from a utility provider that isn’t mentioned in this article, it is worth reaching out to see what options might be available to you.

As Arlt pointed out in his email to customers, “Nebraskans are no strangers to challenging times. Although recent events present us all with uncertainty, we’ll weather the storm as we always do — by leaning on each other in times of need.”

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

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