State extends utility disconnect ban to Aug. 31
Residential, business customers will have extended payment plans with no late fees.
The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) announced Friday it has extended the moratorium on service disconnections for electricity, natural gas, water and sewer utilities customers until Aug. 31.
The SCC first ordered a 60-day ban on disconnecting utilities in mid-March for customers who have been unable to pay bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was then extended through June 15.
Under the policy, utilities regulated by the SCC must offer extended payment plans without late fees or reconnection charges to residential and small business customers who are unable to pay due to COVID-19 financial restraints.
“Our purpose since our original order … has been to protect Virginia’s utility customers who, through no fault of their own, have been the victims of the devastating economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the SCC wrote in the order. “The only truly sustainable solution is government action beyond utility regulation in the immediate short term and a restoration of economic health as soon as possible.”
More than 300 comments were received by the SCC regarding the service cut-off moratorium should be continued and how to make sure costs wouldn’t be shifted to other customers.
“This additional extension will give the General Assembly and Governor time to address the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis on utility customers, an effort alluded to in the letter … from the 58 General Assembly members as well as several other commenters,” the SCC wrote. “We emphasize that utility regulation alone cannot adequately address what is a much broader socioeconomic catastrophe.”
Petersburg faced criticism when it allowed the water to be cut off for more than 700 customers this spring. In May, State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver issued a public health order that water services must be turned back on for the customers, citing a health risk to Petersburg’s population.