COVID-19 forced us to take our weatherization staff and contractors out of the field for about 6 months, and agencies are still slowly recovering momentum. It was important not to risk clients and staff, though most agencies continued to provide HVAC repairs and other emergency services during the suspension of services. All the utilities authorized emergency services, as did ODSA.

Spring and summer are the highest production periods for the program, so we lost a lot of units. This is leading to carry over in a number of utility programs. The gas utilities have traditionally not carried over funding, but provide access to full funding the following year. The electric companies have been different. FirstEnergy has traditionally not permitted funds to be carried over. However, this year the Company reconsidered and will allow us to carry over unspent funds. At the time the pandemic hit we were right on schedule with 2.5 months to go, so while the amount is modest, the more funds, the more families we can help. The carryover funds have already been allocated.

The situation with AEP Ohio and DP&L is different. Their programs, authorized under House Bill 6 (HB 6), expire by statute on December 31, 2020. Unless the General Assembly acts, we will have to stop spending the beginning of November so we can ensure all the refrigerators are delivered prior to the end of the year. With refrigerators and freezers in short supply and long delays in the supply chain expected to continue, this means a projected $2.1 million of AEP CAP funds and $700,000 in DP&L funds will still be available, but barred by law from being spent.

OPAE has been working hard to gather support for the amendment. The situation results directly from the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the members and staff we have talked with understand that. The funds in question are already being recovered from ratepayers. What we need is a legislative vehicle we can attach an amendment that will authorize the programs to extend an additional nine months so we can spend the money customers have already paid in.

The carryover is also important because neither AEP Ohio nor DP&L will have new programs authorized until late 2021, so the carryover money will be needed to serve our clients and keep our staff and contractors working. OPAE has also requested that ODSA allow agencies to use the HEAP Enhancement funds to pay for baseload measures since in at least two utility territories there won’t be any money for those measures.