Electric Co-ops Disappointed that Key COVID Relief Provision Excluded in Year-End Legislation

ARLINGTON, Va. – National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jim Matheson today thanked Congress for including provisions in the year-end spending package that support electric cooperative members and their communities struggling during the pandemic, but expressed disappointment that lawmakers failed to include a key priority for electric co-ops in the bill.

“Rural communities are suffering the economic impact of the pandemic,” Matheson said. “We’re disappointed that Congress did not waive the pre-payment penalty for electric co-ops to refinance Rural Utilities Service debt at today’s low interest rates. Doing so would have given cooperatives the same opportunity to refinance that other businesses enjoy and produced $10 billion in savings to help rural families and businesses navigate these difficult times. However, there are many other elements of the bill that will support co-op members and their communities, and we are deeply appreciative that Congress has met these needs.”

Key energy provisions supported by electric co-ops include:

  • $25 billion in rental assistance, including payments for utility bills.
  • Extension and simplification of the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing utility bills paid with PPP funds to be forgiven. The bill allows businesses to deduct PPP expenses and gives those experiencing severe revenue reductions an opportunity to apply for a second PPP loan.
  • Additional investments in the USDA ReConnect program, the Community Connect broadband program, funding for broadband mapping, tribal broadband infrastructure, FCC telehealth, and emergency funds for low-income families to access broadband through the FCC.
  • The EASE Act, which will provide grants and technical expertise to help electric co-ops implement energy storage technologies and encourage their deployment nationwide.
  • Research, development & deployment funding for solar, wind, hydro, nuclear energy and carbon capture technologies.

“As electric co-ops work to meet the evolving expectations of their consumer-members and communities, public funding for energy innovation is essential,” Matheson said.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national trade association representing nearly 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $12 billion annually in their communities.