The Entergy Corporation has adopted model policies for assisting low-income customers that are "realistic and humane in the face of this national calamity" according to several national consumer groups.
In a letter to the presidents of the Edison Electric Institute and the American Gas Association, which was signed by representatives from the American Association of Retired Persons, the Consumer Federation of America, the Consumers Union, the National Community Action Foundation and the National Consumer Law Center, Entergy was singled out as an example for other utility companies to follow in protecting low-income customers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"We are writing to urge you to recommend that all your member companies adopt policies that are at once realistic and humane in the face of this national calamity and also in the face of high energy prices that will prevail for the months to come," wrote the consumer groups.
In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Entergy suspended disconnecting customers and is working out payment plans with individuals who have high past due balances.
In the letter, the consumer groups pointed out, "one company, the Entergy Corporation, which has itself suffered great loss, has adopted a model policy for the hurricane impact areas and we commend it."
For the past five years, Entergy has dedicated $25 million, lobbying expertise and thousands of employee volunteer hours to attack the causes of poverty in its service area.
Unlike many utilities, Entergy's service area encompasses one of the most impoverished regions of the country, primarily the Mississippi Delta. In fact, more than 20 percent of Entergy's customers live below the poverty line. And in response to the widespread damages and devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, Entergy created the Power of Hope Fund to provide assistance to victims of the storms. The fund, which currently stands at $3.6 million, was seeded with an initial corporate donation of $1 million. The fund will focus on helping victims transition from shelters back into the community. Donors may designate whether they want their contributions to be used to aid hurricane victims in Louisiana, Mississippi or Texas. The deadline for applications will be the first Monday of each month for the next five months.