16,000 BPL customers to get cut in first round of disconnections

Sixteen thousand customers are slated for disconnection in the first of three tiers of exercises, according to Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Director of Public Relations Quincy Parker.

Parker said the first group consists of customers who were already three months in arrears before the COVID-19 pandemic saw the near shutdown of the country.

“We did some research and the manager of credit and collections shared with me that there are more than 16,000 people who are affected by the very first category of disconnections, or people who are eligible for disconnection,” he said.

“And that’s people who, on April 1, were already three months in arrears for more than $500. So, they’re now in arrears by six months. And they’re going to have to make some sort of arrangement because it’s rough.”

Parker said BPL will work with all customers to avoid disconnection.

“The disconnections policy, especially for those who are eligible for immediate disconnection, they have to pay 50 percent and then make a payment arrangement where the remainder is rolled into their bill,” he said.

“But given the COVID-19 pandemic and given the fact that BPL is staffed by people who have hearts, we will work with everyone.”

He said it is unclear how many customers are in the other two tiers, but noted that they have until July 28 to come to speak with BPL agents and make arrangements before they are disconnected.

“There are the folks who were already three months in arrears by more than $500, April 1. Then, there’s the folks who fell into that category after April 1. And those folks have until July 28 to come in and make some sort of an arrangement before they are eligible for disconnection,” he said.

“And then there are the folks who are on the COVID-19 program who also now have until July 28 to come in and make an arrangement.”

BPL Chief Executive Officer Whitney Heastie said the company is also seeking to work with business owners who are behind on payments.

“We’ve asked commercial [entities] to come in and sit down and talk with us, so that we can work out a plan,” he said.

“It may not be the plan that we would like, but we realize these are difficult times and we’re trying to work with everyone equally.”

BPL announced earlier this month its intention to resume disconnections immediately for residential customers.

In April, BPL suspended disconnections for “so long as the government says” and also rolled out a three-month bill deferment program for people who were laid off or in quarantine because of the pandemic.

However, that suspension expired in June.

Last month, BPL indicated that 562 customers, of the more than 800 that applied, were approved for the program.

Nearly half of those approved customers work in the hospitality industry.

While the country has entered into the final phase of the government’s economic reopening plan, thousands, particularly in tourism-related fields, remain unemployed due to the decision of some major hotels to delay their reopening to the end of the year.

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