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PUC to lift service termination moratorium, but with repayment safeguards

Stacy Wescoe//March 11, 2021

PUC to lift service termination moratorium, but with repayment safeguards

Stacy Wescoe//March 11, 2021

With vaccines now available and a potential end in sight to the year-long COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is lifting its March 13, 2020, service termination moratorium effective April 1.

However, with many small businesses and individuals still feeling the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PUC said it has added a number of safeguards to help address past-due utility bills to help forestall service termination.

The PUC approved a plan for 2021 that provides extended payment options to help residential and small business utility customers stay connected to service while gradually paying-down past-due balances.

Today’s action by the PUC requires all commission-regulated electric, natural gas, water, wastewater, telecommunications and steam utilities to modify their existing collection policies to provide additional payment plan options for residential and small business customers.

For small business customers, a utility is required to offer a payment arrangement for a minimum length of 18 months. However, the customer can agree to or request a shorter payment arrangement and the utility can agree to a longer payment arrangement.

With similar options for shorter or longer payment arrangements, a utility is required to offer a payment arrangement length of a minimum of 5 years for residential customers with incomes below 250% of federal income guidelines (FPIG).

The FPIG income level for a family of four is $26,500 a year

The length of required agreements then goes down to as little as one year for higher income residential customers.

Under the plan, utilities will be required to submit quarterly reports to the commission for the remaining three quarters of 2021. The reports must outline the number of accounts at risk of termination; the number of service disconnections of customers with outstanding balances, plus information on the money owed compared to prior years before the pandemic.

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