Since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, utilities across the country have been providing a significant amount of financial assistance to customers, both residential and commercial. This help has been given in a few key ways:
- Suspending service disconnections
- Waiving late fees
- Offering generous payment terms for past-due balances
These policies have granted a significant amount of flexibility to residential customers who may have lost their jobs, or businesses who may dealing with reduced demand for their products/services.
Over the past couple of months, and in correlation with the phased “re-openings” of many states, a significant portion of utilities have rolled back, or begun to roll back much of this temporary assistance. Based on a sample of utilities that we were actively researching, we found that from April to August most utilities had already ended (or planned to end in the near future) their suspension of service disconnections.*
Although this important form of assistance has been scaled back in several states, many utilities are still providing some pandemic-related financial assistance – and will generally work to find a solution with any customer who needs it. Solutions can range from waiving new late fees, setting up flexible payment terms to bring accounts current, and even extending scheduled disconnect dates into the future. A key difference from early-on the pandemic is that now, communicating with the utility over past-due balances is generally required to receive any form of assistance.
The best way to find out if your utility can help is by checking their website or contacting them directly (the latter is especially true for many municipalities, which may not update their websites as frequently).
Additionally, there may be government (state/local) orders requiring certain utilities in their jurisdiction to suspend disconnections and/or provide other forms of assistance. An excellent source for checking on current state orders can be found at https://www.naruc.org/compilation-of-covid-19-news-resources/map-of-disconnection-moratoria/
As we go through this pandemic together, it is good to know that there remain several avenues for people to get the assistance they need with their utility expenses.
*More than 50% of the utilities (electric, natural gas, water/sewer) in this sample are located within 10 states, so this is likely, not representative of changes in utility policies across the country as a whole.