May 25, 2024

SMECO Patriot Program Helps Veterans


Veterans and active duty personnel can who need extra help transitioning back into the community can get it from Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative.

SMECO is launching Patriot Connect, aiming to help local military personnel.

Media reports show that the high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for returning military personnel has been at the root of an increased number of suicides. In the U.S., as many as 22 veterans commit suicide every day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“For returning vets who may be unable to cope, dealing with a termination notice from SMECO could be the last straw,” said Austin J. Slater, Jr., SMECO president and CEO. “If we can help prevent just one tragic death by reaching out to the men and women who have served our country, then this program will have been worthwhile.”

With Patriot Connect, SMECO’s customer service personnel will be empowered to waive the service application fee and deposit for new customers, or grant a payment extension to existing customers, for veterans or active military personnel who need help. Then, customers will be directed to work with Tami Gardiner, SMECO’s Credit and Collections Director.

“We’ve been contacting local agencies that provide services to veterans and military personnel, as well as organizations that provide funds to support veterans, and they have been enthusiastic about SMECO’s new initiative. We are reaching out to agencies because they can promote this program to the people who need it,” Gardiner said. “Our goal is to help someone who is suffering from a stress disorder get one step closer to a normal life. But, I’ve learned that many people with a military background are reluctant to ask for help. Friends and family members may know someone who needs assistance, and they can help by making eligible customers aware of SMECO’s Patriot Connect program.”

Slater added, “By making it easier for people with PTSD, combat stress, or related trauma to accomplish everyday tasks, we hope to help customer-members—people who have risked their lives in service to our country—with reintegrating into the community.”

SMECO provides electricity to more than 160,000 services in southern Prince George’s County, and in Charles County, St. Mary’s County, and all but the northeast portion of Calvert County. Co-ops are distinctly different from investor-owned utilities because co-ops are owned by their customers, and these members elect the men and women who serve on the Board of Directors.

Co-ops also issue capital credits to their members. Capital credits are the member’s share of the co-op’s margins, based on how much electricity the member purchased and the rate at which the account was billed. SMECO’s margins—revenue less expenses—are used as working capital for new construction and system improvements. When SMECO’s Board of Directors determines that a percentage of the capital credits can be distributed to members through a general refund, capital credits will be issued by check or credited to members’ electric bills.

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