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Georgia Power gets approval to recover nearly $8M in COVID-19 expenses

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(The Center Square) – The Georgia Power Co. has received state approval to recoup $7.7 million in COVID-19-related losses from its customers.

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), which oversees utility rates, authorized Georgia Power to resume service suspensions and to recover the losses from consumers.

PSC voted 3-2 earlier this month in favor of allowing Georgia Power to get back the money it spent on personal protective equipment, overtime pay and cleaning supplies in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Georgia Power can include the $7.7 million during the negotiations for its next rate change scheduled for 2022, or the company could ask for the changes to be discussed before then based on its financial status, PSC Executive Director Deborah Flannagan said Tuesday.

On average, rate increases are spread over three years, she said.

Flannagan also said PSC has not received any complaints from customers regarding the recovery of the $7.7 million.

PSC had prohibited utility companies from cutting off services in March, but Georgia Power has received the green light to pull the plug on customers who were delinquent on the payments as of July 15.

Georgia Power could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The company serves 2.6 million customers, according to PSC’s June report. As of June, 1.1 million customers were facing overdue charges totaling $100,400.

Flannagan said the agency has received only a few complaints about the threat of service interruptions during the current economic climate, which mostly could be because of the Georgia Power’s payment installment plan.

Customers can pay the outstanding charges in increments on their current bills from October 2020 to March 2021. As of July 13, about 49,000 customers have entered into installment payment plans, according to the company’s report.

“We understand many of our customers have been impacted by COVID-19, so we want to ensure we’re taking extra steps to keep your lights on,” Georgia Power said in a statement.

A coalition of 32 advocacy groups has asked PSC to reconsider the plans on behalf of customers.

The group demanded that Georgia Power collects data on the customer impact of COVID-19 and to consider debt forgiveness and other assistance programs for the elderly and low-income Georgians.

“The Federal Reserve has cautioned that there will be an ‘extended period’ in which it will be ‘difficult for many people to find work,’” attorneys from the Southern Environmental Law Center said. “And of course, the pandemic is not just an economic crisis but remains an ongoing public health threat.”

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