Virginia regulators have extended a moratorium on utility shut-offs for two weeks while state legislators seek to address the financial burden of the COVID-19 crisis on customers.
On Monday, the State Corporation Commission extended its freeze on utility disconnections from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 — meaning the order is now set to expire exactly six months after it was first imposed on March 16, as a measure to prevent utility cuts for residents suffering a loss of income.
“If such bills are never paid, the costs of these unpaid bills are ultimately borne by paying customers as operational costs of the utility,” the SCC said in a news release, explaining its decision to let its moratorium lapse in the near future.
“These costs 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 COVID-19 pandemic.”
Customers who entered into extended payment plans will still be protected from shut-offs if they remain current or enter into individualized new repayment plans with their utility provider.
The commission had directed utilities to offer such plans of up to a year for customers facing financial pressure due to the viral outbreak.
Residents on an extended payment plan will also continue to be protected against late payment fees after the end of the moratorium.
“The expiration of our moratorium does not mean that customers are without options for continuing utility service, and we strongly urge utilities to make every effort to accommodate customers who are making good-faith efforts to pay their bills,” the commission said.
In its June order, the SCC raised the possibility of federal or state financial aid for utility customers no longer able to pay their bills. It said new legislation would be needed before such a program could come to fruition.
- Sign up for WTOP alerts
- Fall school plans for DC, Maryland, Virginia systems during coronavirus
- Latest coronavirus test results in DC, Maryland and Virginia
- Coronavirus FAQ: What you need to know
- Virginia colleges reopen with COVID-19 data available
- Virginia lawmakers advance absentee voting measures
- DC’s Phase 2 pandemic reopening a ‘much longer haul’