WEWAHITCHKA– Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative has joined many electric cooperatives across the nation in suspending member disconnects during COVID-19. The decision to temporarily suspend disconnects and to waive late payment fees was a unanimous decision by the GCEC board of trustees at a March 17 meeting.


“This decision was made in order to support our members during the COVID-19 pandemic,” GCEC CEO/General Manager John Bartley said. “We took this step to reduce stress and to provide local families and businesses with certainty during an uncertain time.”


Electric cooperatives are built by, and belong to, the communities they serve. That community focus drives co-ops as they respond to evolving COVID-19 challenges and local concerns.


Not-for-profit electric co-ops have no shareholders. Because of this structure and the desire to keep energy costs as low as possible, there are limited reserve margins to sustain high rates of nonpayment.


“Our members need to realize that these disconnect suspensions are not bill waivers,” Bartley said. “We encourage our members who are unable to pay their full balances at this time to contact our offices. We are always willing to work with our members on a payment plan or to see if they qualify for assistance, and now is no exception.”


“Members should pay at least a portion of their bill as they are able. Taking this simple step can help avoid a large multi-month balance when the pandemic is over.”


As members spend more time at home, they may see a surge in home energy use. Some steps members can take to help control their energy bills include:


• Program your thermostat to maximize energy savings. Setting your thermostat one degree higher when cooling can reduce energy use by up to 5 percent.


• Do full loads of laundry and wash with cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load's energy use in half, and using cold water will save even more.


• Air dry dishes. This step can cut your dishwasher's energy use by up to 50 percent.


• Substitute LEDs for conventional light bulbs. Lighting can amount to up to 12 percent of monthly energy use. LED bulbs can cut lighting costs by 75 percent.


• Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. Small appliances and electronics use energy even when not in use. When powered on, game consoles, televisions and similar electronics are responsible for up to 12 percent of energy use.


Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative is responding to COVID-19 by taking steps to protect employees and maintain reliable and affordable services. Therefore, its office lobbies remain closed. Although GCEC office lobbies are closed, employees are still working to deliver safe, affordable and reliable power.


Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Central:


• Drive-throughs open for payments. Anyone who can do business by phone or online is asked to do so in order to keep drive-through times down.


• Pay over the phone by speaking to a member service representative. There is no additional charge for making a card payment over the phone. The cooperative accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.


• Speak to a member service representative regarding new services or other necessary business.


24 Hours a Day, Seven Days a Week


• Members may access their accounts or make a payment by calling any of GCEC’s office numbers and using the automated system. There is no additional charge for using the automated system.


• Access accounts and make payments at www.gcec.com. There is no additional charge for paying online.


• Drop boxes for after-hours payments are located at each drive-through.


• Report a power outage by calling any of the office numbers or online at www.gcec.com.


Wewahitchka: 639-2216 or (800) 333-9392


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Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative is part of the Touchstone Energy® national alliance of local, consumer-owned electric cooperatives providing high standards of service to members large and small. GCEC employees serve approximately 20,000 meters and 2,600 miles of line in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Jackson, Walton and Washington counties and in the municipalities of Wewahitchka, Ebro, White City, Fountain and Southport.