Biz Roundup: Duke Energy programs offer relief from high cooling costs this summer
Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 19, 2022
Duke Energy is offering a wide array of programs and plans to help customers reduce energy usage and manage their bills.
Since mid-2021, costs for fuels used to produce energy have more than tripled. Duke Energy does not profit from these increased costs, and the company proactively takes measures to insulate customers from these spikes. These steps include negotiating long-term fuel contracts and maintaining a diverse fuel mix, including nuclear, solar and hydro, for power generation.
“With the price of everything going up right now, we want to relieve the impact on our customers as much as possible,” said Larry Hatcher, senior vice president of customer experience and services. “We offer a variety of programs ranging from payment flexibility to financial assistance that will help our customers who may be grappling with higher bills.”
Two payment options include flexible payment plans and the budget billing plan. Payment plans allow residential customers to pay their balance over a more protracted period. Options are available for customers who either need a few extra days or require a more extended installment plan to catch up.
The budget billing plan is a free and popular option for customers who like to know what to expect each month. It provides predictable monthly energy bills to help customers with their household budgeting.
There are several programs to improve a home’s energy efficiency for customers hoping to take proactive measures to keep their energy bills manageable.
Customers who have an email on file and a smart meter receive a mid-cycle usage alert to provide a mid-month view of their current usage to date and a projection of their monthly bill at their current rate of usage. They can also access daily usage through their online account profile. These tools are intended to give customers insight and control over their energy use.
The Home Energy House Call is a free program for eligible Duke Energy homeowners (in Florida, the program is called a Home Energy Check). Customers receive a free assessment detailing steps they can take to increase efficiency and lower their energy bill and a free kit with energy-saving products valued at over $180.
In most Duke Energy territories, customers can find savings at the company’s online store at duke-energy.com, which offers energy-efficient fixtures such as thermostats, lighting and faucets. Also on the website, customers can discover rebate offers for making energy-saving home improvements.
To help connect our customers in need of assistance, Duke Energy partners with community and state agencies to help those who qualify access Duke Energy and federally funded assistance programs. Programs and eligibility vary by service territory, so customers can find more information by visiting duke-energy.com or calling our customer care center.
• The Crisis Intervention Program (CIP) covers heating- and cooling-related crises and is available throughout the year.
• The Weatherization Program helps income-qualified customers save energy and reduce expenses through energy conservation measures like weatherstripping and HVAC repairs or replacements.
• The Helping Home Fund is offered to income-qualified applicants in several Duke Energy operations territories. It provides in-home energy assessments and improvements such as replacing appliances and HVAC repairs up to $800.
• The Neighborhood Energy Saver Program is also available to income-qualified customers to help them lower their energy bills through in-home energy assessments.
• The Duke Energy Share the Light Fund also assists qualifying customers struggling to pay their energy bills. Employees, customers and Duke Energy shareholders contribute to these funds, which the Duke Energy Foundation matches.
North Carolina’s May employment figures released
RALEIGH — The state’s seasonally adjusted May 2022 unemployment rate was 3.4%, remaining unchanged from April’s revised rate. The national rate remained unchanged at 3.6%.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate decreased 1.6 percentage points from a year ago. The number of people employed increased 33,419 over the month to 4,916,580 and increased 218,327 over the year. The number of people unemployed decreased 2,361 over the month to 170,970 and decreased 76,321 over the year.
Seasonally adjusted Total Nonfarm employment, as gathered through the monthly establishment survey, increased 7,000 to 4,728,200 in May. Major industries experiencing increases were Manufacturing, 3,700; Financial Activities, 2,200; Leisure & Hospitality Services, 1,700; Education & Health Services, 1,300; Construction, 1,200; Professional & Business Services, 1,200; Other Services, 1,000; and Information, 100. Major industries experiencing decreases were Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 4,300 and Government, 1,100. Mining and Logging employment remained unchanged.
Since May 2021, Total Nonfarm jobs increased 165,300 with the Total Private sector increasing by 154,600 and Government increasing by 10,700. Major industries experiencing increases were Leisure & Hospitality Services, 43,500; Professional & Business Services, 43,300; Manufacturing, 15,600; Financial Activities, 14,500; Education & Health Services, 13,200; Government, 10,700; Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 9,600; Other Services, 7,500; Information, 5,400 and Construction, 2,200. The only major industry experiencing an over-the-year decrease was Mining and Logging, 200.
The next unemployment update is scheduled for June 29 when the county unemployment rates for May 2022 will be released.
Attorney General announces $233 million multistate Medicaid settlement with Mallinckrodt
RALEIGH — Attorney General Josh Stein today announced that he reached a $233.7 million settlement to resolve allegations that drug company Mallinckrodt ARD, LLC (formerly known as Questcor Pharmaceuticals) knowingly underpaid Medicaid drug rebates for its drug H.P. Acthar Gel (Acthar).
North Carolina will receive $13.78 million in restitution and other recoveries. The company is the U.S. subsidiary of the Irish pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt plc.
“When drug companies shortchange the Medicaid program, they make it harder for North Carolinians to get the care and medications they need to stay healthy,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I’m pleased that Mallinckrodt will be making restitution to the North Carolina Medicaid program. My office will always hold accountable companies and health care providers when they defraud taxpayers.”
Under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, when a manufacturer increases the price of a drug faster than the rate of inflation, it must pay the Medicaid program a per-unit rebate of the difference between the drug’s current price and the drug’s price if it had gone up at the general rate of inflation since 1990 or the year the drug first came to market, whichever is later.
However, Attorney General Stein, along with 49 other states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the federal government, alleged that Mallinckrodt and its predecessor Questcor began paying rebates for Acthar in 2013 as if Acthar was a “new drug” just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), rather than a drug that was first introduced to market in 1952. Allegedly, this practice meant the companies ignored all pre-2013 price increases when calculating and paying Medicaid rebates for Acthar from 2013 until 2020.
In particular, the government alleges that Acthar’s price had already risen to more than $28,000 per vial by 2013, so ignoring all pre-2013 price increases significantly lowered Medicaid rebate payments for Acthar. The governments alleged that Mallinckrodt’s conduct violated the Federal False Claims Act and the North Carolina False Claims Act and resulted in the submission of false claims to the North Carolina Medicaid program.
Under the settlement agreement, Mallinckrodt admitted that Acthar was not a new drug as of 2013 but was actually approved by the FDA and marketed prior to 1990. Mallinckrodt agreed to correct Acthar’s base date AMP and that it will not change the date in the future.
This settlement results from a whistleblower lawsuit originally filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The federal government, twenty-six states including North Carolina, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico intervened in the civil action in 2020. The settlement, which is based on Mallinckrodt’s financial condition, required final approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. A team from the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units participated in the litigation and conducted settlement negotiations on behalf of the states.
Attorney General Stein previously announced a separate settlement with Mallinckrodt in October 2020 to address the company’s misconduct in manufacturing opioids. That settlement also received final approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.