Our response to COVID-19

Our response to COVID-19

In an age of social distancing, many of us are scrambling to respond to our new normal. As a community-owned, not-for-profit water and power utility, we’ve always been driven to help our community and meet whatever challenges come our way.

We will get through this, together.

As our valued neighbor, we feel it is essential to share the changes we are making in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our customers, employees, and all those we serve. As an organization, we’re closely monitoring developments related to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact across our service area. In this ever-changing environment, one thing remains constant and that’s our commitment to keeping the light on, the water flowing on, and caring for our community.

  • Read our all-customer COVID-19 April 2020 newsletter that was mailed April 10.
  • On March 31, we sent out an e-newsletter to those of you that we have an email address. If you didn’t receive the e-newsletter and want to see it, we posted it.
While our lobby may be closed, we are available to serve you. We have several options available to serve you from the convenience of your own home.
  • Online: We encourage you to access your account online to make payments.
  • Dropbox: Our payment dropbox is located in our parking lot at 601 N. Evergreen Road.
  • Phone: Feel free to call us at (888)774-8272 or (509) 924-3800. Our staff is practicing social distancing. Vera representatives are available to speak with you on the phone, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Our call center is available 24/7 to help you with your bill and to take your service calls.
  • Email: You can email us at info@verawaterandpower.com

Changes to customer billing.

In response to the Governor’s request to suspend late fees and disconnects:

  1. No customer affected by this pandemic – who works with us – will be disconnected.
  2. Additionally, we have suspended late fees and blue disconnection door hangers. We will be sending a second reminder letter in lieu of the door hangers and waived the associated fees.
  3. While we have implemented late-fee forgiveness and are willing to work with anyone to avoid disconnection during this difficult time, we remind everyone that utility billing continues. By skipping a payment now will create a higher cumulative bill. Please call us to arrange payment plans.
  4. Costs and fees incurred prior to this emergency are not affected, but customers who are already delinquent will not incur further costs or be disconnected if they are working with us.
  5. We will continue to look for ways to further support the needs of our customers and our community through the duration of the pandemic.
We have adjusted our operation to assure the reliable and safe delivery of water and power and to minimize the risk and spread of the illness.

In compliance with Gov. Inslee’s order we have implemented the following:

  • The crews are responding only to essential calls. They are not entering individual homes.
  • We will no longer enter a customer’s home to read a meter or fix a problem. We are asking the maintenance people to take a picture of the meter so we get a reading. Closings are the exception, and then only if it can be done safely. Other meters will be estimated.
  • The crews are generally divided in half and working separate locations across the district. They are working four 10-hour shifts. They are available 24/7 to respond to trouble with your service or power outages.
  • We are continuing to follow the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization.
  • We are in regular contact with local, regional, and state health organizations.
  • We’ve added additional health and safety precautions, including eliminating non-essential business travel, having employees who can work from home to do so, canceling all meetings and events, and practicing social distancing.
  • Minimal Vera representatives are reporting to the office daily from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. After 11:30 a.m., our call center is answering our phones.
Meetings of Vera Water and Power's board of directors, if held, would be conducted via teleconference or web conference.

As part of Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order, our June 10, 2020 Board of Directors Meetings will be held online. We will post the meeting link, the dial-in numbers, and access codes on our website and social media. We encourage you to participate.

Delays to public records requests.

Typically, we must respond to any public records request within five days. However, Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency COVID-19 proclamation waives this requirement.  Therefore, during this pandemic, when we receive a public information request, we will attempt to respond within five days. However, since we are obeying the Governor’s order to stay home and stay safe, no one is physically at the Vera Water and Power office to search for written records. Those responses will be delayed until the emergency order has expired.

Be aware of scammers.

Emergencies and unprecedented events offer opportunities for scammers to launch fraudulent campaigns that feed off the climate of concern. Specifically, scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak to send fraudulent emails, texts, etc.

Beware of scams asking for personal information or immediate payment, and NEVER click on a suspicious link or attachment.

Stay home. Stay safe.

Monday, March 23, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee held a live address from his office to announce a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order requiring every Washingtonian to stay home unless they are engaged in an essential activity. The order bans all gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes and orders all businesses to close unless they are designation an essential business. You can read the governor’s announcement here.

Employees of Vera Water and Power are considered essential employees and have permission to travel for work-related activities. This allows us to continue to keep the lights on and water flowing.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing is likely a term you never heard until the recent coronavirus outbreak. So, what is social distancing and why should you practice it?

Social distancing is a fancy term for avoiding close contact with other people during a disease outbreak in order to avoid potentially transmitting the infection. The purpose of social distancing is to slow the spread of the virus to reduce its impact on society and the healthcare system.

How do you practice social distancing? Basically it means avoiding large gatherings and maintaining at least six feet of distance from other people. Here are some simple ways to do that by changing your daily routine:

  1. Avoid handshakes, hugs and other close greetings. Handshakes and other customary greetings enable virus transmission through skin-to-skin contact. Substitute with something else — such as a smile or a wave.
  2. Work from home if you can. The less contact you have with your co-workers and others, the less chance you have of spreading the virus. Substitute face-to-face meetings with emails and videoconferencing.
  3. Shop smart. Only go to the store for groceries and other essentials. Try to go during slower times and maintain at least a six-foot distance from other shoppers.
  4. Eat in. Now is a great time hone you culinary skills and make healthy, flavorful meals for you and your family. If you do go out, opt for the drive-through or carryout.
  5. Minimize outings. Stay home as much as possible. Catch up on your reading or binge watch your favorite shows. If you do go out for a jog or to walk the dog, maintain your distance from other people.

People of all ages can be infected by the coronavirus. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions — such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease — may be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill. These people should stay at home and avoid contact with others.

Stay at home if you are feeling ill or are experiencing coronavirus symptoms. Contact your doctor for advice.

See the Centers for Disease Control coronavirus website for information about the infection and tips on how you can protect yourself and your family.

Community resources

We’re not sure what life will look like in the next month, two months, or even a year down the road, but we do know our community. We are resilient. We will adapt. We will get through this.