COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rob Dorans was one of the tens of thousands of AEP Ohio customers who lost power during this week’s forced outages. And that meant the Columbus City Council member lost a lot of food, too.
“Unfortunately everything had to go,” he said of the contents of his fridge.
It was a tough blow, but he found a glimmer of hope in the knowledge that he could file a claim with AEP Ohio asking to be compensated for his loss.
“We’ve seen the amount of money that has gone into grocery budgets go up, and, yeah, that’s really hurting a lot of our families across the city that can least afford another hit to their grocery bill,” he said.
But then Dorans received an email from AEP Ohio, the first direct communication he said he received from the company since the outage started.
The email, shared with 10TV and on Twitter, read, in part: “I’m writing to provide you with correct information regarding our policy on reimbursement for spoiled food after a storm. AEP Ohio does not reimburse for perishable items during a power outage. We recommend checking with your insurance agent.”
Dorans deleted his previous tweets and expressed his frustration on Twitter.
“That is very different than an intentional blackout in which AEP made specific choices to turn certain people’s power off, and they’ve spent several days now saying about how of an extraordinary event this was,” Dorans said. “Well, if it’s so extraordinary, why aren’t they doing the thing that they can do in providing some compensation for folks that have been caught in this very extraordinary, intentional situation.”
Just hours later, AEP Ohio announced it would be compensating customers, with the announcement of $1 million in funding.
This week, extreme storms, followed by extremely hot weather resulted in a unique situation where power outages throughout Columbus had to be taken to prevent wider spread outages, which created challenges for many Franklin County residents. We’re partnering with various organizations, including Columbus Urban League, IMPACT Community Action, Lifecare Alliance and the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, and will provide a financial contribution of $1 million funded by the AEP Ohio Fund of the Columbus Foundation that will be used to help relieve financial burdens these residents experienced as a result of this highly unique event. The AEP Ohio Fund and the AEP Foundation have consistently supported non-profits that are providing support to our customers and communities.
But 10TV questioned whether that was enough. At the peak of the outage, 170,000 Franklin County customers were without power. If all filed claims, each customer would not even receive $6.
“We’re partnering with these organizations to provide support for customers who were affected by the outages in Columbus and will be working with them to provide more detailed information on how customers can seek assistance,” AEP Ohio said in a statement.
As for other customers outside Franklin County, starting Monday, AEP Ohio is expanding the assistance provided through the neighbor-to-neighbor program, which provides eligible customers with utility assistance grants applied directly to their bills.
AEP Ohio also informed 10TV that customers will need to apply for assistance directly through the organizations, not the AEP Ohio website.
Meanwhile, Dorans is already looking ahead to ways to prevent something similar from happening in the future. He said city leaders are trying to find ways to support residents.
And he shared the hope that AEP Ohio will make some changes as well.
“It’s their responsibility to make sure that the grid works, and when these types of events come up, to help mitigate the worst effects of those things on our residents,” Dorans said. “Power outages happen. Most folks get that and will deal with it the best they can. The lack of understanding about what is happening and why, I think, is one of the main, main drivers of the really intense frustration that I’m hearing from community member.”
For more information about the outages and the AEP Ohio response, click here.