Magic Valley EC News
Co-ops Keep the Lights on in Difficult Times
History of overcoming adversity informs response to COVID-19

IMAGE: Neutronman | iStock.com

Electric cooperatives have a long history of weathering adversity. In fact, they were born out of challenging times.

This resilience will help Magic Valley Electric Cooperative and our consumer-members overcome the hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected our area this year.

Electric co-ops were formed after 1935 to relieve the hardship rural areas faced while their urban neighbors enjoyed the conveniences of electricity. The Rural Electrification Act made low-cost loans available to farmers and ranchers, who banded together to create nonprofit co-ops to deliver electricity to rural America, including Texas. Lawmakers of the time thought that electricity would revolutionize the rural way of life.

Soon after, electric co-ops weathered World War II. Construction of rural distribution systems slowed during that period, but the model prevailed. Within four years after the war, the number of co-ops in the U.S. doubled, and the number of connections tripled, according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

When many of our family members and neighbors were called to serve in other wars, including the Vietnam War, Korean War, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, co-ops endured. We kept the lights on for them while they were away.

The economic recession of 2008 didn’t faze electric cooperatives. While many long-standing businesses thought to be too great to fail actually failed, electric co-ops persevered. We looked to our values—the Seven Cooperative Principles, which put members’ needs first—as a guiding light during the downturn.

Electric cooperatives have continually weathered storms at home. Forces of nature such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods threaten and sometimes damage our infrastructure, but our brave lineworkers battle the elements to keep the electricity flowing.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, co-ops everywhere have taken extra precautions to keep employees and members safe. We aim not just to survive as an organization, but to help our members make it through the hard time and recover, too.

Some ways that electric cooperatives put members’ needs first during the pandemic included providing payment arrangement options, waving late fees and halting disconnections. Also, our employees, along with CoBank, donated $20,000 to provide assistance to MVEC members experiencing financial hardships as a result of COVID-19. Through the MVEC Cares Program, Magic Valley employees were able to raise $10,000 to help members pay for their electric bill. Thanks to a matching grant through CoBank’s Sharing Success Program, the employees were able to increase the number of members that they were able to assist.

I’m proud of what our employees have done, and it goes to show the type of dedicated and passionate employees that we have working at the Cooperative. The $20,000 donation was split between the Hidalgo County Community Service Agency and Community Action Corporation of South Texas, which provides services to Cameron and Willacy Counties. MVEC members who are in need of financial assistance to pay their light bill can contact either of the agencies to apply for assistance. Certain eligibility requirements have been set in order to be able to assist as many members as possible.

Members living in Hidalgo County can contact Hidalgo County Community Services Agency at 956-383-6240 to apply for assistance. Willacy and Cameron County members can contact Community Action Corporation of South Texas at 956-424-1100 or 956-435-0379 to submit their request.

Even though the world is grappling with uncertainty and difficulties because of the pandemic and its economic effects, you can rest assured that Magic Valley Electric Cooperative will make it through—and your lights will stay on.

TAGS: Magic Valley EC, Co-ops at Work

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