The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is offering the opportunity for public comments regarding its orders suspending utility service disconnections for non-payment of bills because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency.
The SCC ordered a temporary suspension for 60 days of utility service disconnections for non-payment of utility bills on March 16 to protect customers impacted without warning by the severe economic repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis.
In April, the SCC extended its suspension order for an additional 30 days, to June 15. In that extension order, the SCC warned that the costs of unpaid utility bills eventually are borne by other utility customers, many of whom may themselves be struggling to pay bills during the economic crisis.
In today’s order, the Commission said, “While we recognize the hardships faced by many Virginians as a result of the COVID-19 catastrophe, the reality is that a moratorium on all service disconnections due to unpaid bills is not sustainable on an unlimited basis in the absence of programs to ensure that the growing costs of unpaid bills are not unfairly shifted to other customers.”
The Commission requests commenters to address several specific questions:
*Should the mandatory moratorium on utility service disconnections currently in place be extended beyond June 15, 2020? If so, for how long?
*If the commenter advocates extending the mandatory moratorium on service disconnections indefinitely or for a significant period beyond June 15, please identify the programs and mechanisms, public or private, that will provide sufficient funding to ensure that costs of unpaid utility bills are defrayed and will not result in even higher costs on other utility customers.
*Should the mandatory moratorium on service disconnections be replaced on June 15 (or some specific later date) with voluntary measures by utilities to reduce or avoid service disconnections, such as offering extended payment plans with no late fees and/or waivers of reconnection charges?
Comments may be submitted through the SCC’s website by June 5, 2020, at
https://scc.virginia.gov/casecomments/Submit-Public-Comments. Simply scroll down to case number PUR-2020-00048 and click SUBMIT COMMENTS.