SCC extends ban on utility service disconnects Until June 14
The Commission said, “While we fervently wish otherwise, … it appears that the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are unlikely to abate significantly” by mid-May, making the extension order necessary.
Although extending the ban through June 14, the Commission cautions that customers still owe payment for utility services received. In its order, the SCC wrote, “If such bills are never paid, the costs of these unpaid bills (accounts uncollectible) … do not disappear; they are shifted to other customers, who themselves may be struggling to make ends meet in the economic catastrophe caused by the pandemic.”
The Commission also noted that its March 16 order and the extension are intended “to protect those Virginia residential and business customers who, through no fault of their own, become temporarily unable to access sufficient cash to pay their utility bills on a timely basis due to the severe economic consequences” of the pandemic. Accordingly, the orders are not retroactive to earlier unpaid bills that were not caused by the COVID-19 health crisis. However, some companies have voluntarily chosen to reconnect past customers.
The Commission also strongly urges utilities to:
- Make extraordinary efforts to avoid disconnections for medically vulnerable customers.
- Work with customers already in arrears or disconnected who are seeking reconnection.
- Offer extended or flexible payment plans until the emergency has passed.
- Waive reconnection fees.
For customers whose payment arrearages are due to the coronavirus emergency, the Commission ordered that late payment fees not be assessed.
During the COVID-19 emergency, there may be further orders of the Commission on any issues necessitated by the crisis.