OUC to resume disconnections, despite opposition from nonprofits

A group of nonprofit organizations is pleading with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) not to cut people’s power off but the disconnections will continue, as planned.

“Hold off, as long as possible,” said Dave Krepcho, President and CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank.

Krepcho is joining more than 50 other local nonprofits calling on the postponement of utility disconnections, set to restart next week after being suspended for a period of time due to the coronavirus pandemic and recession.

“We all collectively serve the vulnerable population and at times, if we can combine our voices to advocate on behalf of these people, there can be more power to that message,” said Krepcho.

The coalition is sending a letter urging Dyer to think of those who have been struggling since before the pandemic hit.

“They were making impossible decisions then, so this pandemic has really exaggerated their situation, so we have a real concern,” said Krepcho.

OUC tells FOX 35 News about 15,000 of its 250,000 customers are facing getting their power cut-off after the utility paused disconnections for four months.

“At the end of the day, OUC has a duty to all of its ratepayers to continue to operate in a financially responsible way,” said Tim Trudell, an OUC spokesperson.

The City of Orlando responded to the letter, with this statement:

“Mayor Dyer and the City of Orlando remain committed to helping our residents and businesses in need due to the impacts of this pandemic.  The City of Orlando, together with OUC, have put measures and funding in place specifically to provide residents and businesses with access to financial assistance for utility payments and to avoid disconnection.  We urge our community to take advantage of this assistance.  Residents should contact the United Way at 2-1-1 and businesses can apply online at www.ouc.com/small-business-assistance.

“Additionally, OUC is offering flexible payment plans that can be worked out on a case-by-case basis to meet the individual needs of our community in helping pay utility bills.  Individuals and business should make those arrangements as soon as possible by contacting OUC directly and prevent any disruption or disconnection in service.

“For more information on all these programs, individuals can visit www.OUC.com/assistance."

“Those programs are still out there and available and today, as we speak, there’s still several million dollars available,” said Trudell, urging customers to take action. “We don’t want to disconnect anyone, at the end of the day, we just want our customers to contact us, let us know there’s an issue and we will find a solution for them.”

Krepcho doesn’t believe the assistance will be able to help everyone.

“I hope the mayor reconsiders, for sure,” said Krepcho.

If you are facing disconnection or having trouble paying your electric bill, contact OUC as soon as possible, to prevent disconnection. Disconnections will start back up Tuesday, July 14.

Click here to visit OUC’s assistance program website.