By Lauren SIburkis
Communications, Ohio Edison
AKRON – Electricity is a basic necessity that families rely on all day, every day. The coronavirus pandemic has made electric service even more important as people continue spending more time at home. That’s why Ohio Edison continues to focus on protecting employees and the public while also delivering the power customers need.
Protecting the public begins with helping customers navigate financial hardships caused by the pandemic that challenge the ability to pay their electric bills. Ohio Edison is offering bill assistance programs and payment plans that can help keep balances manageable during this difficult time. Ohio Edison customers are encouraged to visit www.firstenergycorp.com/billassist or call 1-800-633-4766 to obtain assistance. In most cases, a service disconnection can be avoided by simply contacting customer service to explain the situation and establish a plan.
For Ohio Edison line workers, adjustments to daily work routines have quickly become the “new normal” to ensure safety remains a top priority when they report to work each day. Some of the changes include splitting line workers and field personnel into smaller work units to support social distance between employees. Additionally, each unit of three to four workers has a different reporting location to avoid having a large group of workers together at one time.
These adjustments have allowed utility personnel to continue important reliability projects that benefit Ohio Edison customers, from completing modernization work that strengthens the power system to performing outage restoration after severe weather. Ohio Edison field workers take great pride in the work they have continued to do to keep communities powered throughout the pandemic.
For example, Ohio Edison completed grid modernization work in 2020 to enhance electric service reliability for more than 200,000 customers in parts of Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties. This was achieved by the hundreds of line workers and behind-the-scenes employees who quickly adapted to new COVID-related policies and overcame every challenge they faced.
Customers will benefit from the installation of new automated reclosing devices that work like a circuit breaker in a home to help limit the frequency, duration and scope of certain service interruptions. The modernization projects also included replacing several miles of existing power lines with thicker, durable wire designed to withstand tree debris and severe weather elements. New utility poles were installed to support the electrical infrastructure, and additional power lines were constructed to connect customers to an alternate circuit, allowing for more flexibility in restoring outages due to events such as storms or vehicle accidents. Similar grid modernization work is planned in other areas of the Mahoning Valley this year.
Beyond the company’s commitment to providing reliable electric service during the pandemic, Ohio Edison also helped communities get through unprecedented times with contributions to organizations that provide help to customers within its service area. Over the summer, the company made large donations to local United Way agencies and area food banks to help Valley families impacted by the pandemic. The donations were made through the FirstEnergy Foundation, funded solely by Ohio Edison’s parent company FirstEnergy Corp.
Through the generosity of Ohio Edison employees and the FirstEnergy Foundation, nearly $54,000 was donated to AMVETS before the holiday season to provide nearly 1,600 veterans and their families with meals. And in Struthers, dozens of Ohio Edison employees and their families helped AMVETS run a food distribution event by packing boxes with food and personal care items and providing transportation of the food items.
With 2021 underway, Ohio Edison will continue performing the essential work that will help local communities power forward safely, together.