Clallam County may approve funds for help with past-due utility bills

Customers owe about $700,000, PUD says

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have teed up an agreement with Clallam County Public Utility District to help customers who suffered a financial hardship from COVID-19 pay overdue utility bills.

The three commissioners vetted Monday a $350,000 subrecipient agreement with the PUD that would direct American Rescue Plan Act funds to qualifying residential and commercial customers with outstanding balances on their utility accounts.

“Our total arrearage is about double the $350,000, and we’re seeking other avenues for additional assistance for our customers,” PUD Finance Manager-Treasurer Sean Worthington told county commissioners Monday.

“But this will be definitely a step in the right direction.”

The county board will vote on the agreement when they meet at 10 a.m. today. No commissioner objected to the item Monday.

Clallam County received $15.02 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for COVID-19 response in May, according to an executive summary.

In a May 24 letter, the PUD requested from the county $1.78 million for several broadband and water infrastructure projects and $350,000 for utility arrearages for households, businesses and nonprofits.

Utility arrearages are considered an eligible use of ARPA funds under recent guidance from the U.S. Treasury, Clallam County Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane told commissioners.

Those who apply to the PUD for utility assistance must certify that they incurred a financial hardship due to the pandemic.

“The award amounts are limited to, for residential customers, no more than $4,000, and for commercial customers, no more than $10,000,” Lane said in the commissioners’ work session Monday.

County officials will audit reimbursements before releasing funds to the PUD and other subrecipients, Lane said.

The PUD provides electricity to all Clallam County customers outside Port Angeles. The city of Port Angeles operates its own utility and has a separate utility relief program.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee had announced an extension of the state’s eviction and utility shutoff moratorium through Sept. 30. No further extensions are expected, Worthington said.

“We are encouraging customers to work with us immediately, because when that Oct. 1 comes around, if people haven’t contacted us, there’s going to be a lot of customers that are going to be hurting,” Worthington said.

“So this (funding) will be very helpful.”

Worthington said the PUD was eager to get the utility arrearage program up and running and marketed.

“The primary work for us is going to be soliciting the application through social media channels (and) our website,” he said.

“We’ll make personalized phone calls to just about every single customer that’s past due.”

For information on PUD programs, visit the district’s website at www.clallampud.net.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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