Mr. Charles W. Mueller
Chairman and CEO
P. O. Box 66149
One Ameren Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63166
Dear Mr. Mueller
So, far it has been a very hot and frustrating summer for many needy families and in some cases, seniors have succumbed to the horror of being without air-conditioning. For the past several months, Cool Down St. Louis, a regional cooling assistance charity, has been providing various resources, including paying electric bills and aid to many bi-state area seniors, disabled and needy families with small critically-ill children. We are currently in the midst of our public awareness program, "Be A Good Neighbor...Check On Your Neighbors" in an effort to reduce heat-related deaths and illnesses.
Our Resource Hotline is manned by volunteers from our board in an ongoing effort to counsel and give direction to many of our neighbors in Missouri and Illinois. At this time, we have serious concerns with Ameren and wish to give you time to respond to this concerns, hopefully in an immediate manner through the positive action of your customer service representatives.
We have received hundreds of calls on our resource hotline and the majority of these calls (99.5%) claim that:
Ameren makes no attempt to volunteer information regarding energy assistance through its Dollar-More program.
While Ameren advertises in the print and electronic media asking rate-payers to sign-up, there is no attempt to educate the public as to where they may apply for Dollar-More funds. The Ameren customer service department appears to be inconsistent and inflexible in providing helpful information to its rate-payers.
In at least twenty-five cases, it was obvious that the rate-payer had attempted to make arrangements for payments and the Ameren customer service department became aggressive and refused to help. We referred many of these cases to the Missouri Public Service Commission for assistance.
The advocacy arm of Cool Down St. Louis supports the need to have a hot-weather rule which would prohibit electric companies from cutting off utilities to its needy rate-payers. Ameren should make every effort to implement and practice some sort of compassionate outreach program to ensure that electricity is affordable for its needy customer base. Ameren should assist these customers and provide enough alternatives to ensure that they do not have to face life and death situations because of their inability to pay or receive immediate assistance.
Many of your rate-payers call us in a panic, and all too often they do not necessarily read the fine print on their disconnection notices. Ameren has a moral and public obligation to make it easy and simple for these needy rate-payers to obtain assistance.
We urge you to establish a comprehensive "workable" plan of public awareness for energy assistance this summer. If you continue to request through advertising, that your rate-payers "sign up" on the Dollar-More program, it is imperative that every Ameren customer service employee also be able to articulate a resource for cooling assistance for those being shut-off or threatened.
J. Kim Tucci
J. Kim Tucci
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Cool Down St. Louis
Earl E. Nance, Jr.
Reverend Earl E. Nance, Jr.
Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors
Cool Down St. Louis
cc: Missouri Public Service Commission and Missouri Office of Public Counsel