NASSAU, BAHAMAS — More than 11,000 Bahamas Power and Light residential customers are up for disconnections as the company urges those in arrears to come in and make payment arrangements.
Quincy Parker, BPL’s director of communications, revealed those customers represented just the first tier of delinquent customers: those who had already been three months in arrears for more than $500 on April 1.
Parker could not confirm whether disconnections have started yet.
Parker previously revealed that figure stood at 16,000 during a press conference at the E Coburn Sands building on Saturday.
However, in a later email correspondence, he confirmed the number of delinquent accounts in this category is 11,399.
“And that is people who at April 1 were already three months in arrears for more than $500, and they are now in arrears by six months and they are going to have to make some kind of arrangement,” he said.
Parker could not provide details on the other two categories at the time.
Customers who have more than 90 days in arrears since April 1, have until July 28 to bring their accounts current, or arrange a payment plan.
Customers who enrolled in the BPL COVID-19 Relief Programme also have until July 28 to bring their accounts current or to enroll in a payment plan.
BPL reported last month that 562 customers were approved for the relief program.
Parker continued: “The disconnections policy for those eligible for immediate disconnection, they have to pay 50 percent and make a payment arrangement where remainder is rolled into their bills.
“But given the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact that BPL is staffed by people who have hearts, we will work with everyone. The trouble is, because the mountain is so big, some people choose not to climb and they just let it keep getting bigger and bigger.
“Don’t just let your balance keep growing, come in and make an arrangement, say something and the folks in credit and collections will definitely work with you to bring that mountain down to a molehill.”
At a press conference yesterday, BPL CEO Whitney Heastie confirmed the company’s disconnections programme will also include corporate customers.
“We try to be understanding and empathetic,” he said.
“We know the program as originally intended was only for residential (customers), it was never intended for commercial (customers). But when commercials are not operational it’s hard for them to pay their bills just like any resident.
Heastie continued: “So what we’ve done is asked commercials to come in and sit down and talk with us. It may not be the plan we would like but we realize these are difficult times and we try to work with everybody equally — and so we’ve extended the very same thing to commercials.
“In terms of come and talk with us for a payment plan, we’re not going to disconnect you, we just want to make sure that obviously the outflow needs to meet the inflow in terms of revenue.
However, Heastie said the company is prepared to disconnect commercial customers if they don’t make a payment arrangement.
Heastie said: “Here’s the challenge, it’s very hard to say to someone who is struggling to pay their bill that you go ahead and you hold the line and pay your bill, and then let somebody else don’t hold the line and pay their bill, that’s an unfair situation but we understand that it is a balance situation on both sides.
“We want everybody to come in and sit and talk with us and see how best we can work together,” he added.
This article has been updated to correct the number of delinquent accounts at Bahamas Power and Light. BPL initially stated more than 16,000 customers were three months in arrears for more than $500 on April 1. The figure was corrected on July 21 to 11,399.