The week of June 13 AEP Ohio cut the electrical power of tens of thousands of Ohio residents. The company claims this was done to preserve equipment needed after a strong line of storms hit Central Ohio. Central Ohio residents flooded social media with complaints of medical equipment power loss, food loss, lost wages, hotel expenses, and more. AEP directed customers to their claims portal for residents to file damage claims on their losses. The site required users to provide a detailed, itemized list of all expenses and proof of loss with a photograph.
AEP then denied the claims, sending claimants the following e-mail:
"Our investigation confirms that the storms and their impact caused your power outage. We understand the frustrations and hardships faced by many customers who were affected by the severe weather and resulting power outages. However, the storms caused significant damage to some of our large transmission lines that feed power to your area. Combined with impacts from the heat, some of the remaining transmission lines became overloaded, requiring emergency outages to protect the electric system. AEP Ohio’s actions were consistent with the Tariff for Terms and Conditions of Service, which has the force and effect of law, and provides that AEP Ohio is not liable for such damages
In addition to the circumstances of the severe storm, AEP Ohio does not guarantee that its service will be free from outage or fluctuation. This limitation is also set forth in the Tariff.
We have enclosed an excerpt of the relevant Tariff, and the complete document is available at: June_2022 _AEP_OhioTariff.pdf (aepohio.com).
Because of these circumstances, AEP Ohio is unable to honor your claim.
AEP Ohio is partnering with local organizations and providing a $1 million contribution, funded by the AEP Ohio Fund of the Columbus Foundation, that will be used to help respond to the impacts residents experienced from the unique power outages in Columbus as a result of the June 13-14 severe storms and the extremely hot weather that followed. Customers can visit aepohio.com/programassistance for information on how to contact these organizations for assistance.
AEP Ohio is also expanding the current bill assistance available through the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program. Current funding available through this program is $2.7 million. This special expanded assistance opportunity will provide eligible AEP Ohio customers in need with a grant applied directly to their bill, even if they are not currently past due. Customers can learn more and, if eligible, apply between June 20 and July 29, 2022 at aepohio.com/n2n while funds are available."
AEP partnered with IMPACT and gave the organization $250,000 to distribute $250 Kroger gift cards. Residents flooded social media with complaints of disorganization, long lines, and the service of early arrivals.
One Columbus, Ohio resident posted the following:
"10 to 12 .....10:30 and they are done for the day."
One resident said she was in line at 11:00 am for the 3:00 pm start time the following week and was still turned away.
Many residents complained that IMPACT is notorious for disorganized events, long lines and wait times, and for closing events far earlier than the announced end time.
AEP also partnered with the Columbus Urban League, who originally announced the cards would be worth $500. One day after the portal opened, it was closed due to an overwhelming demand from the public. About 3,000 people applied for assistance. The amount was decreased to $300 per card to serve more people, and those cards were distributed virtually.
Social media is flooded with complaints of AEP claim denials. AEP allowed customers to file claims for damages but continues to deny claimants. Thousands of families were unable to receive assistance through the "programs" set in place by AEP and the community groups they partnered with. The State of Ohio expanded EBT benefits for those already on the program.
Janel is not one of those people. Janel works full-time from home. She has health issues and takes care of her two granddaughters. The family does not receive any state benefits. Janel lost all of their refrigerated and frozen food, lost three days of wages, and incurred additional expenses because her eldest granddaughter has severe asthma and Janel is a cardiac patient. The family was forced to get a hotel room. She filed a claim with AEP, sent all the itemized expenses, and included photographs. AEP denied her claim. She received the same dreaded e-mail sent to thousands of other consumers.
"I had to pay my rent late this month with a late fee because I had to choose between buying groceries or paying the bills. I don't get any benefits, missed work and we lost all of our food. How could they just do this? People are on Facebook bragging about how their electricity wasn't even off, but they got food stamps, gift cards, and everything! Yet I work every day and can't get a drop of assistance at a time like this," she expressed with frustration. "I can't take any more time off to go stand in a line 6 hours early just to be told they ran out. AEP is so wrong for this."
AEP has been accused by many civic leaders and groups of cutting power to the majority of low-income and minority neighborhoods and not affluent areas of the city. AEP denies these claims and has publicly stated they based the load shedding on locations and not on neighborhoods.
According to the AEP public executives' salary list, their CEO and New Albany resident, Nicholas K Akins, was paid a salary of $14,589.483 in 2021.
"You've got to be kidding me," one Columbus resident told us. "What could he do to make 14 million dollars a year? While WE suffer through outages and no food? That's ridiculous! AEP should be ashamed, and he should too. Pay him less, lower our rates and replace our food! This should be illegal. Who protects us from companies like this?"
Many residents with medical conditions had to suffer through the outage and heat with no relief. Residents were forced to seek shelter options, but some were afraid to leave home, due to non-working burglary alarm systems.
"We stayed because the battery on our alarm is only 12 hours. We were scared someone would break into our house," Columbus resident Maggie told us.
We were unable to locate a Columbus resident who had their AEP claim approved. Everyone we spoke to that applied for compensation, received a denial.