Fewer people were on the Imperial Irrigation District’s disconnection list for power service as of Feb. 12, according to the district.
That’s just before the district ended its moratorium on disconnecting customers due to non-payment of their accounts.
“We didn’t have any activity (on installment plans) at the beginning of January,” said Belen Valenzuela, IID finance director. “Since the district put an end to the moratorium, what you are seeing are people calling in and making a payment arrangement. During this last week, the call center has been making about 125 installment plans per day.”
The information was shared with the IID Board of Directors at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
The board decided last month that starting on Wednesday, Feb. 17, IID customers who have a past-due balance of $50 or more will be automatically enrolled in an eight-month or 12-month payment plan for outstanding utility debt accrued through Dec. 31. With the change in policy, disconnections for non-payment will resume.
“Overall payments have jumped up, especially in January and February,” Valenzuela said, adding that people have been making payments or getting on a payment plan since the board decided to end its moratorium on disconnecting customers. “It is somewhat getting better. Of course, it’s not going to be an overnight change, but we are seeing some pretty good results.”
In December, some 13,162 accounts were ready to be disconnected. That started dropping in January, as only 10,010 accounts were ready to be disconnected by the end of the month, and only 6,746 were ready for disconnection as of the middle of February.
That’s due to people either making payments or getting on a payment plan, Valenzuela said. It’s still an increase from 2020, where only 3,344 accounts were ready to be disconnected as of the end of January 2020.
Because of the end of the moratorium, district General Manager Enrique Martinez said there has been an uptick in fraudulent calls in Imperial and Coachella valleys threatening people to pay up or have their power shut down.
“It appears to come from overseas,” Martinez said. “Based on that information, I did ask Antonio (Ortega, IID communications head,) to improve and amplify our messaging to our customers to make sure they don’t fall for those fraudulent calls. And to the public, if they do receive those calls, do not automatically assume that the information is correct. … We’re not generating those calls.”