The power could go off for approximately 2,900 JEA customers facing disconnection at 12:01 a.m., Wednesday. The utility paused shut offs for six weeks because of high bills.
JEA gave customers a one-day reprieve after the utility’s call center received more phone calls in the first hour Monday that it typically sees in an entire day. The organization reported normal call volumes on Tuesday.
“We anticipate that these customers will reach us, and we will help them with payment arrangements and pay plans to avoid the disconnection all together,” Sheila Pressley, JEA’s Chief Customer Officer, said.
Edward Emanuel, a JEA customer, dropped off his $500 payment Tuesday to avoid having his service disconnected. “I don’t know how I’m going to get gas money. I don’t know how I’m going to pay rent. I don’t know how I’m going to eat. I’m dependent on God from this point on.”
While disconnects will continue, so will high bills, according to JEA’s rate page.
According to the organization’s data, the average customer’s bill jumped more than $40 in the past year, from $123 in October 2021 to $164 in August.
JEA blames the fuel costs, which continue the upward trend into September before leveling off in October.
The average cost was about $30 in October of 2021, and more than doubled to $69 in August. September has a rate of $83.46 -- the highest all year. JEA CEO Jay Stowe said it will dip back down slightly to $79.03 in October and sit steady until he expects a drop in March of 2023.
“Right now there are so many external factors from the war in Ukraine and the demand for natural gas in Europe, which has changed the demand for natural gas in the States,” Stowe said.
There are organizations to help. All five JEA line worker unions came together to announce a $10,000 donation to JEA’s Neighbor to Neighbor program. It will help 33 customers pay their bills.
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“We do have members that also feel the pinch. What we do here on a regular basis is we try to make sure that the lights are on,” Valerie Gutierrez, the business manager for IBEW 2358, said.