April 2020 Letter – Community & Economic Development

Special COVID-19 edition

Sandy Sims

The first quarter of 2020 is behind us, and so much has happened in these past few months. First, I want to thank those who were able to attend Gulf Power’s 23rd Economic Symposium. If you missed the event, a crowd of more than 500 business leaders from across the Southeast gathered in Miramar Beach to connect and learn from some powerful national and local speakers and panelists. The positive economic tone and message from the event has been tested as we are all working to see beyond our current health, economic and social crisis of the COVID-19 outbreak.

I wanted to send this note to you, our regional business leaders, to share some important information from some of our business support organizations and to update you on Gulf Power’s response and additional community support.

As you know, planning for unexpected storms and disasters is part of our culture at Gulf Power. I like to think because of our experience with major hurricanes in the past, it makes our employees, and our communities, more resilient. And, I’m always overwhelmed by how quickly our communities come together during these extreme times of need.

Helping our communities in times of crisis goes beyond just delivering reliable energy.

  • Gulf Power announced this week our plan to significantly lower bills for all customers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Subject to Florida Public Service Commission approval, beginning May 1, Gulf Power plans to issue a one-time decrease of approximately 40% for the typical May residential customer bill as a result of lower fuel costs. Our business customers will also see a significant one-time decrease in May, depending on usage and rate class.
  • I am also happy to let you know that this week, the Gulf Power Foundation gave $500,000 to United Way organizations across Northwest Florida. The funds will be used to address increased demand for services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are committed to working with the United Way so they can continue to assist those most vulnerable during this time.
  • In addition to the above, we are working to assist small businesses as they are truly the backbone of our communities. Partnering with the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and University of West Florida Foundation, Gulf Power has committed to provide $250,000 to a grant program that can assist eligible for-profit businesses in Northwest Florida that have been severely impacted by this crisis. If you or your business is able to contribute to join us in this effort, we will be able to expand the impact and assistance to more small businesses in our community.

Although these times are different than anything we’ve experienced, I am hopeful that as community leaders we will continue to support each other and find ways to help those struggling through these uncertain times. We are stronger together and we are #oneNWFL!

Working together for Northwest Florida,

Sandy Sims
Gulf Power External Relations Director



Gulf Power to provide May bill relief during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Gulf Power to provide relief during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

This week we announced our plan to significantly lower bills for all customers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Subject to Florida Public Service Commission approval, beginning May 1, Gulf Power plans to issue a one-time decrease of approximately 40% for the typical May residential customer bill as a result of lower fuel costs.



Gulf Power commits $500,000 to United Way

United WayAs communities around the world grapple with the lasting economic and health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, community support organizations like the United Way are in need more than ever. The Gulf Power Foundation has committed $500,000 to the United Way organizations serving Northwest Florida to help members of our communities impacted by COVID-19.

The financial commitment will be divided between three United Way organizations serving the region:

  • United Way of West Florida – $250,0000
  • United Way Emerald Coast – $125,000
  • United Way of Northwest Florida – $125,000

Individuals in need of immediate assistance accessing food, paying housing or utility bills, or other essential services are urged to dial 211 from their phones. You can visit 211nwfl.org for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties; or panhandle211.communityos.org for Okaloosa and Walton counties. These services provide information and referral services.



SBDC and Gulf Power partner to support local small businesses with $250,000 grant

Florida SBDC

The Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of West Florida (UWF) has launched the Northwest Florida Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Grant Program to assist businesses across our communities impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant program was made possible by an initial grant of $250,000 from Gulf Power through its economic development fund. The grant program will provide up to $5,000 to help offset losses that small businesses may currently be experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grant applications will be accepted April 8-14, 2020, and will be made available to download at sbdc.uwf.edu. For more information about the program or assistance with completing the grant application, contact the Florida SBDC at UWF at 850-586-7802 or ahaider@uwf.edu.



Florida Chamber of Commerce launches online resource center and daily newsletter

Florida Chamber of Commerce COVID-19 Resource CenterLike businesses across Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is committed to the safety and health of Florida employers and the millions of people that work for them.

The Florida Chamber recently launched a COVID-19 Resource Center as well as a daily newsletter providing the latest information and resources. Sign-up here to begin receiving the Florida Chamber’s daily newsletters.

If you have a question or need additional information from the chamber, please contact Greg Blose who is leading their COVID-19 efforts at gblose@flchamber.com.



Take the Haas Center COVID-19 impact survey

Hass Center | University of West Florida

The Haas Center at the University of West Florida is conducting a study of the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. The survey can be accessed at uwf.edu/coronavirussurvey between March 16 – April 6, and is available in English and Spanish.

The survey aims to understand the types of travel and spending changes of Florida residents that occur during the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. While the results will be shared publicly to provide information about potential financial impacts of the pandemic in Florida, all data obtained from participants will be kept confidential.