Yes, the puns are endless, but AMPs can be a lifeline to help folks get back on track. An Arrearage Management Program (AMP) is a program that helps you pay past due utility bills, packaged with energy efficiency and bill forgiveness, and we’re working to bring it to Louisiana!
Here’s the general idea. Say a customer has accrued $1,000 in electric bills over the past year. Given the record number of job losses and extreme weather, this isn’t unusual. The customer is getting back on their feet, just as our hot summer months are quickly approaching. Maybe they can keep up with current utility bills, but just can’t get over the hump to clear the past due amounts. Here’s where an AMP comes into play.
A well crafted AMP will allow for a customer with a past due balance to enroll in a payment plan, say they pay $25 extra a month to cover their past due balance. At the same time, they get an energy efficiency audit to see what programs may be available for them to lower their energy usage (and bills!) without sacrificing indoor comfort. Said customer can now stay current on their bills while continuing to pay towards the past due amount. Following a certain amount of time, a year for example, of staying current on monthly bills and the payment plan, the remaining past due balances are forgiven.
This is not a new concept and has been very successful in other states, such as Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts. They aim to break the cycle of energy inequity by helping customers avoid falling into arrears, the term for debt accrued from failing to pay off energy bills. And, when we’re struggling to get back to work following a global pandemic, it seems like now is when folks could use it the most.
Programs like these generally help all utility customers. We know energy efficiency benefits all customers, but a program for arrearage management also reduces the amount of money a utility will need to write off in bad debt, or worse, sell to collections firms who harass customers and impact their credit. Again, benefiting all customers.
Part of the settlement with Entergy Louisiana on their recent rate modification application included a commitment from the Company to work with us to develop an AMP for its customers, and now we’re working to push for programs like these with Louisiana’s other utilities. But, of course, we’re not doing it alone.