NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives contributed $1.65 million to assist their communities during the COVID-19 public health crisis. An additional $388,000 in matching grants was secured through the Tennessee Valley Authority’s COVID-19 Community Care Fund, resulting in total community support of more than $2 million.
The contributions were made to a variety of projects, including support of local nonprofits and food banks, construction of community Wi-Fi hotspots and utility bill assistance.
Throughout the spring and summer, electric co-ops committed to keep the lights on for Tennesseans impacted by the pandemic, and co-ops continue to work with consumers who are struggling to pay their energy bills. Unfortunately, the overall impacts of the pandemic in much of rural and suburban Tennessee have been deep and lasting.
“From financial struggles to health concerns, COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of life,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Co-ops are in a unique position to see and respond to the specific needs of their communities. They care deeply about the people and places they serve.”
More than $1.4 million went to support local food banks and other nonprofits already working in co-op communities to address emergency needs such as food and shelter, but co-ops also found other ways to help.
As the pandemic pushed school, church, work and other activities online, several co-ops utilized their existing broadband networks to develop community Wi-Fi hotspots for their communities.
“The pandemic presented challenges for healthcare, education and commerce, especially in rural areas where internet access is limited,” said Paul Thompson, CEO of Tri-County Electric. “The five Wi-Fi hotspots we installed will ensure that everyone in Trousdale County can take advantage of online educational and healthcare services.”
“Every community that we serve has been affected,” said Keith Carnahan, CEO of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative. “ We know that the impacts of the pandemic will stretch far into the future, and we are committed to serving our members and meeting the needs of our communities.”