The reliability of the SECO Energy electric system plays a critical role in SECO members’ health and wellbeing. To keep SECO employees healthy and ready to serve its members and in light of the current economic environment, the cooperative has made changes to policies and procedures. For SECO, COVID-19 is a storm – a storm that shall pass – and a storm during which the cooperative applies flexibility, understanding and protection for its members.
The not-for-profit cooperative has extended payment arrangement timeframes over and above normal parameters. SECO is also proactively waiving late payment fees. The cooperative continues to apply flexibility and convenient/automated processes to request payment arrangements during the COVID-19 situation. Members requesting a payment arrangement can do so 24/7 by talking to SECO’s virtual assistant on the automated phone system or by logging into SmartHub. Both platforms have been programmed to automatically allow additional time for payment arrangements. Members are encouraged to use the virtual assistant and SmartHub as call volume has been high amid COVID-19 concerns. Eligibility for a payment arrangement has been expanded significantly and talking directly to a member services representative is typically not required.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a ‘stay-at-home’ executive order for the state beginning April 3. SECO understands this order may create unprecedented hardships that affect members in its service area. In response, SECO has extended the activation of its Emergency Response Plan (ERP) until further notice and has expanded the payment arrangement and late fee flexibility described above. As a distribution cooperative, SECO provides electricity which is an essential service. The reliability of this service is supported by every SECO employee – thus, all employees are essential.
SECO’s five Member Service Centers are closed to walk-ins but drive-thru facilities remain open. The cooperative offers members 12 ways to pay bills, most that avoid face-to-face contact. Members can pay online, by phone, by mail, enroll in bank draft and more. SECO’s online account platform called SmartHub is the place to start for convenient self-serve options. Log in or create an account profile today. View past bills, usage history, request a payment arrangement and more.
As part of the Emergency Response Plan, SECO Energy’s Sumterville headquarters and adjacent campus are temporarily closed to public access for any vendor or delivery without an approved appointment or scheduled delivery. SECO field personnel are practicing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended social distancing standard of maintaining a six-foot barrier with members. Employees and members are asked to use email, phone and web conferencing communication in lieu of in-person meetings whenever possible and to practice social distancing when in-person meetings are unavoidable.
CEO Jim Duncan stated, “For SECO, COVID-19 is a storm – a storm that shall pass – and a storm during which the cooperative applies flexibility, understanding and protection for its members. Our service is essential in preserving public health and quality of life in today’s world. The cooperative’s Emergency Response Plan ensures it can maintain a 24/7 workforce, preserve SECO’s ability to maintain its electric system and provide an acceptable level of member service even in the face of employee impact with COVID-19. Our members depend on us to provide reliable electric service, and that’s even more important as our largely senior demographic practices social distancing at home to remain healthy.”
SECO has other ways to help members in need through a corporate citizenship initiative called Pennies from Heaven. The program helps fund local United Way chapters managed through Florida 211 for bill payment assistance for SECO members. Members who need assistance with utilities, food, and other household expenses are encouraged to contact 211.