JUNO BEACH – On Jan. 4, Florida Power & Light Company began accepting applications for its new Main Street Recovery Credit Program, offering credits to qualifying small businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. FPL’s Main Street Recovery Credit Program is the latest of several initiatives, the total of which are valued at more than $75 million, that the company implemented to show its steadfast support of adversely impacted customers during the global pandemic.
Establishments in FPL’s service area that are eligible to apply for the program include:
• New small businesses;
• Small businesses that were inactive for at least six consecutive months after March 2020;
• Existing small businesses operating in federally designated Opportunity Zones in FPL’s service area.
Qualifying small businesses would receive a monthly 10% credit based on the previous month’s energy charge portion of their electric bill for the duration of the program. The company will implement the FPL Main Street Recovery Credit Program for qualifying small businesses in January and offer bill credits through the end of 2021.
Recent studies show the pandemic’s toll on the state’s 2.7 million small businesses. Florida ranks fourth in the nation for business closures with 5,300 permanent closures and 3,300 temporary closures, according to a Yelp economic report. A recent survey of more than 4,800 Florida small businesses conducted by the Florida Chamber Foundation found that:
• More than half of businesses either voluntarily closed or were forced to close;
• More than 30% suspended operations during the survey;
• More than 45% expressed concern about their ability to operate in the future.
“We know that COVID-19’s unpredictability and disruptiveness has made life very difficult for all Floridians, so we are continuing to work hard to find innovative ways to help our customers get through this challenging time,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “This new initiative will help alleviate some of the financial pressure facing our small businesses and independent stores that make up the fabric of our communities. We’re committed to helping Florida get back up on her feet and this program is one more way FPL is helping to rebuild our economy and move the state forward.”
Interested businesses can visit FPL.com/MainStreetRecovery to fill out an application to determine if they qualify for the program.
Support to customers
FPL’s plan to assist small businesses is another example of direct relief that the company is providing customers in response to COVID-19, including those customers significantly behind on their bills. Last month, FPL donated $15 million to help approximately 55,000 residential customers who receive federal assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) or the Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly Program (EHEAP). These customers will receive credits on their monthly electric bill through December 2021.
In mid-March, FPL immediately began offering payment extensions and waiving late fees for customers experiencing hardship due to the pandemic, policies that remain in effect. During that time, the company also suspended disconnections for nonpayment and continued doing so for more than six months. Through a careful and measured approach, FPL resumed issuing final notices in September. To date, approximately 75% of customers who have received a final notice and passed their due date for payment have worked with FPL to make a payment arrangement and avoid disconnection for nonpayment. For those customers who were disconnected, more than 80% were reconnected within 24 hours following payment of their past due balance.
In addition, FPL issued more than $15 million in bill credits to more than 112,000 residential and small business customers based on the status of their account and how long the account has been past due. The FPSC unanimously approved FPL’s plan to accelerate deposit refunds to eligible residential customers who have paid on time and in full for the last 12 months.
FPL’s Care to Share Program, a donation-based effort which also provides bill payment assistance to customers, recently reached approximately $5 million in contributions, including more than $3 million from shareholders of NextEra Energy, FPL’s parent company. FPL is working to enhance the program, offering customers who pay electronically opportunities to contribute set monthly amounts, one-time donations or the option to round up their bill to the nearest dollar as a voluntary contribution.