In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, as electric cooperative managers, leadership, and boards across the country worked to prepare for the worst and anticipate fallout, two key concerns were top of mind: their members and their staffs.
As the outbreak turned to a pandemic and spread, creating social and economic upheaval throughout the United States, that co-op focus never changed.
“As painful as it’s been to watch how this public health crisis has impacted people across the country, seeing how cooperatives have responded to care for their communities and their employees has been a source of enormous pride,” says Jeffrey Connor, NRECA’s chief operating officer. “We talk about concern for community a lot. These are the situations where we prove it, and co-ops stepped up big.”
Whether it was suspending service cutoffs or accelerating capital credits returns to help members struggling to pay bills; partnering with local businesses to manufacture hand sanitizer or personal protective gear, or building WiFi hotspots and boosting bandwidth to keep members connected, the electric cooperative response to COVID-19 was proactive and compassionate.
“This has a been a historically disruptive event, and we know the end isn’t yet in sight,” Connor says. “But I can say with confidence no matter what the future brings, it is a true advantage to live in a community served by an electric cooperative.”
What follows are dozens of stories of co-op concern for community during the pandemic. It is by no means exhaustive, but meant to convey the breadth and depth of the co-op commitment to use its resources and influence to improve their members’ lives, in the best of times and the worst.
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Co-ops, Restaurants Partner Up to Provide Meals During COVID-19 Pandemic
Co-ops help local restaurants and other businesses, beset by coronavirus closures, reach out to the elderly and others in need with meal kits and other essential supplies.
Co-ops Provide Financial Relief to Members During Pandemic
Early retirement of capital credits and security deposit refunds are among responses by co-ops to help members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Co-ops Offer Educational Ideas for Parents Juggling Kids, Telework During Pandemic
With parents across the country in need of ways to entertain and educate their kids at home, co-ops are using their social media channels to help.
Photo Gallery: Co-ops Find Creative Ways to Celebrate High School Grads Amid Pandemic
The coronavirus may have robbed high school seniors of graduation ceremonies, proms and athletic banquets, but co-ops are helping mark the milestones in unique ways.
S.C. Co-op Members ‘Give 5’ for Struggling Families During Pandemic
Palmetto Electric Cooperative started an on-bill donation program to let members help people who have lost jobs due to the pandemic.
Logistics and Supply Co-ops Beef Up Equipment Stock for COVID-19 Impacts
Amid the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain co-ops are taking extra precautions to ensure they have the inventory needed to keep power flowing.
Wisconsin Co-op Holds Drive-In Meeting to Keep Members Safe During Pandemic
Richland Electric Co-op answered coronavirus distancing rules with a thoroughly unconventional “drive-in” annual meeting.
Amid Pandemic Shortages, Co-op Partners With Distillery to Produce Hand Cleanser
When the impact of COVID-19 began to hit home in Kansas, a co-op and a whiskey distillery teamed up to fill an urgent need for hand cleanser amid a nationwide shortage.
Electric Cooperatives Expand Remote Operations to Serve Members During Pandemic
Technology cooperatives SEDC and NISC have helped ease the transition for co-op employees to serve members while working from home during the pandemic.
New COVID-19 Standards for Mutual Assistance Pass Extreme Test in Mississippi
Dixie Electric Power Association adapted its restoration work to fit new COVID-19 safety protocols while hosting outside crews after a spate of Easter Sunday tornadoes.
‘A Blessing’: Co-ops Deliver Free Public Wi-Fi Hotspots During COVID-19
Co-ops with broadband enterprises are keeping their members safe and connected with free internet hotspots in parking lots of churches, schools and restaurants.
Co-op Speeds Broadband Connection to Clinic for COVID-19 Testing
When a new clinic set up to test patients for COVID-19 needed broadband access within days, an Indiana co-op navigated the permit process, equipment failure and snowy weather to meet the tight deadline.
Co-op Broadband Providers Pledge to Sustain Low-Income Service as Pandemic Hardships Increase
In addition to supporting an FCC pledge to sustain broadband service for low-income customers, co-op broadband providers are finding ways to go above and beyond.
Co-op Voices, Part 1: The Expanding Financial Toll of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Co-ops are facing severe budget shortfalls as businesses and factories falter and residential members struggle to pay their electric bills during the pandemic.
Co-op Voices, Part 2: The Expanding Financial Toll of the COVID-19 Pandemic
From the wineries of Walla Walla, Washington, to the empty kids’ baseball diamonds of Cooperstown, New York, co-op communities are experiencing unprecedented challenges from COVID-19.
Electric Co-ops Resume Lobby Operations with COVID-19 Precautions in Place
Electric cooperatives in some areas are cautiously re-opening their lobbies, adding new protections that include staying 6 feet apart, wearing masks and installing barriers.
Read more on the electric co-op response to the COVID-19 pandemic
Staff writers Cathy Cash, Derrill Holly, Erin Kelly and Victoria A. Rocha all contributed to these stories.