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Cowlitz PUD in healthy financial position despite pandemic

Cowlitz PUD in healthy financial position despite pandemic

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Cowlitz PUD

The Cowlitz PUD is optimistic about its ability to weather the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, PUD officials said in a virtual commissioner’s meeting Tuesday.

PUD officials attributed the healthy economic outlook to the agency’s stockpiling of cash over the last decade and “very good” communication from customers who have had trouble paying bills during the crisis.

“We’re still in a good cash position, and even if the worst case scenario were to come true, we have adequate reserves to maintain a healthy PUD,” Finance Director Trent Martin said.

The PUD is not disconnecting power or charging late fees for customers who can’t pay their bill because of the coronavirus, and the utility is helping them arrange payments and find other resources to avoid accruing a massive bill during the pandemic, spokeswoman Alice Dietz said.

The PUD has $112 million in cash reserves, which it could use to easily cover its projected deficits, which could range from around $3.3 million to as much as $7.2 million, Martin reported.

The PUD had projected a deficit for this year even before COVID-19 hit, but in the worst-case scenario, the virus could drive it up by an estimated $2.8 million in reduced power sales to commercial and industrial customers, $1 million losses from customers unable to pay bills, and $100,000 for miscellaneous COVID-19 expenses such as the need to buy personal protective equipment.

“We believe we can cover the current projected worst-case scenario and maintain adequate cash reserves,” Dietz said in an email.

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