Insights > Helping low-income customers is a cornerstone of Entergy Mississippi’s community outreach
Helping low-income customers is a cornerstone of Entergy Mississippi’s community outreach
“Making electricity affordable to everyone in this country is only one small part of the overall problems facing people with low income, but it will be difficult to satisfactorily address without creating the overall climate of goodwill.”
Those words were spoken by the late Wayne Leonard during Entergy’s inaugural Low-Income Summit in New Orleans in 1999. Earlier that year, Entergy’s new president and CEO had joined President Clinton and a delegation of CEOs and elected officials on a trip through the Mississippi Delta as part of Clinton’s “New Markets” initiative to improve the region’s economy.
The experience hit home for Leonard, whose company served a large population of customers living in poverty.
Within a few years, Entergy had formulated a new vision for the future that included a renewed commitment to do more for low-income customers. Today, Entergy is regarded as a leader in corporate social responsibility for providing solutions for low-income customers that address the root causes of poverty.
“Everybody knew Wayne Leonard was different,” said Lawrence Johnson, who retired in 2021 as Entergy Mississippi’s manager, public affairs. “He touched on something that employees really cared about—their communities—and gave them ways to get involved and give back. He shook up the fabric of the company, and it made a huge impact that can still be felt today.”
Assistance efforts continue to gain momentum
After Leonard retired in 2013, low-income efforts continued gaining momentum. In 2014, Entergy hosted the first poverty simulation in the U.S. Capitol for congressional staffers, members of Congress and nonprofit leaders. Since that time, the company has hosted more than 50 simulations that have helped key stakeholders throughout its service area better understand the plight of America’s working poor.
Since 2018, Entergy has delivered more than $100 million in economic benefits annually to local communities through philanthropy, volunteerism and advocacy. In 2023, Entergy was named one of the most community-minded companies in the U.S. for the eighth consecutive year for driving meaningful social impact in its service area.
Years before Entergy’s low-income focus became a corporate priority, company leaders and employees in Mississippi had established a legacy of community service and customer support.
In 1982, Mississippi Power & Light launched the “Concern” program in partnership with local communities to help customers with special economic needs. It eventually became The Power to Care, an Entergy-wide program that provides emergency bill-payment assistance for low-income elderly and disabled customers.
Entergy Mississippi employees and community volunteers also have weatherized scores of customer homes, mostly for low-income seniors, to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. As part of the “Beat the Heat” program each summer, employee volunteers distribute box fans to elderly and disabled customers who lack adequate air conditioning.
Providing solutions for Mississippi families
Entergy Mississippi has always worked closely with customers who are experiencing economic hardships. Solutions include deferred payment plans that give customers more time to pay bills; and Level Billing, which averages bills over a rolling 12-month period so amounts are similar each month, making budgeting easier.
By providing free tax preparation services, Entergy Mississippi has helped eligible customers throughout its service area receive the Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the most effective means of lifting Americans out of poverty. The company also works with Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP agencies which help customers get federal energy bill assistance.
Helping families build assets and achieve economic stability has been another strategy to reduce poverty. In January 2023, Entergy Mississippi partnered with the Children’s Foundation of Mississippi to launch Kids to College, which enables families to establish savings accounts for their children to attend a two- or four-year college, trade school or technical school.
Those are just a few of the many ways that Entergy’s low-income outreach continues improving lives and futures in Mississippi.
“Some people assumed that the very necessary emphasis we put on low-income customers would disappear—that it was a fad,” Johnson said. “Now it’s a normal part of doing business that has also strengthened other areas, like customer service, economic development and diversity and inclusion. Today, the company has closer relationships with customers and communities and is more responsive to their needs. I think employees take pride in being part of a company that does so much to help others.”