Cleveland Public Power fails to consistently offer payment plan as an option
by Jacie Jones
(Plain Press, March 2020) This article is the third in a series based on issues that came out of the Cleveland End Poverty Now Coalition’s October 17th public hearing about utility shutoffs through Cleveland Public Power (CPP).
The first article focused on the issues that customers face when applying for assistance to avoid shutoffs. The second highlighted the lack of due process and proper notification. This article focuses on the absence of affordable payment plans. Future articles will discuss electricity being turned off for people with medical issues and an over 50% surcharge on customers’ bills called the “Energy Adjustment Charge” which has yet to be adequately explained by CPP.
The Cleveland Public Power website includes a section on “payment assistance”, which states: “Are you worried about your bill? Have you received a disconnection notice? Has your electricity been disconnected? Do you need a payment plan? Let us help. Our Customer Care representatives are ready to assist you.”
Despite their website, CPP does not consistently offer payment plans for people behind on their bills. While some customers report being offered payment plan options, just as many say they are told to pay their balance in full immediately or their power will be shut off. People who are behind on their bills are often forced to borrow money to keep their heat and lights on, only making a difficult financial situation even more precarious.
Kimberly Armbruster, a CPP customer, states; “In July of 2019 my power was disconnected… I went down to CPP on Lakeside Avenue to work out a payment plan. I was told by a Cleveland Public Power supervisor that CPP had no payment plans and that I would need to pay in full to have it restored”.
It’s clear CPP isn’t offering consistent payment plans. Accessible and affordable payment plans are a necessity, often the only realistic solution possible for people to pay their balance back.
Payment plans are outlined by the Cleveland Codified Ordinances. They state “The Division shall make arrangements with the customer for the payment of delinquent bills in installments, taking into consideration the amount of money owed, the customer’s ability to pay, the customer’s payment history, the time that the debt has been outstanding, the reasons why the debt has been outstanding and any other relevant factor.”
Having a publicly owned power company like CPP can be an important asset to our community, but CPP must stay true to their mission of public ownership and accountability. One consequential step Cleveland Public Power must take is providing transparent, accessible, and affordable payment plans on an income-based sliding scale. Payment plans are a key service that can make the difference between having heat and lights or cold and darkness.
If you or someone you know has been shut off or is at risk of being shut off, we want to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (216) 651-2606.
Editor’s Note: The author of this article, Jacie Jones, is an organizer with Organize! Ohio.