MADISON–– On Thursday, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) voted unanimously to allow utilities to move forward with disconnection of service for nonpayment at the end of the annual winter moratorium on disconnections on April 15, 2021. The move comes following a moratorium preventing utilities from disconnection for nonpayment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Customers who are behind on payment are strongly encouraged to arrange a payment plan with their utility providers or seek state and federal assistance before the moratorium ends.
“I know this past year has not been an easy one for so many of us. I am proud to say that Wisconsin was one of the first states in the nation to issue a moratorium on utility disconnections at the very beginning of the pandemic,” said PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq. “As the state begins to reopen, allowing deferral of payments any longer would be more harmful to both our utility partners and consumers. The PSC has worked closely with our friends at the utilities and asked that fair and reasonable payment plans are available for those who need it most.”
On March 24, 2020, Governor Evers issued Executive Order #12 extending the winter heating moratorium for electric and natural gas customers for the duration of the Public Health Emergency. In July, August, September and October of 2020, the PSC voted 2-1 to extend the temporary disconnection moratorium for residential utility customers through the end of the annual winter moratorium which runs from November 1 – April 15.
The PSC required utilities that seek to disconnect residential service to file disconnection plans with the Commission if they were planning to disconnect customers after April 15. 254 electric, natural gas, and water utilities submitted disconnection plans by February 15, 2021. Utilities reported that an anticipated 93,263 residential customers and 4,810 non-residential customers would be subject to disconnection by April 2021. Utilities are required to offer a Down Payment Agreement (DPA) for customers who cannot pay an outstanding bill in full.
To avoid disconnection, customers who have fallen behind on payments are encouraged first to contact their utility to set up a payment plan. If customers are having difficulty paying their energy bills, they may be eligible for assistance from the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP). To apply on line go to energybenefit.wi.gov or to find out where to apply in person or by phone, go to http://homeenergyplus.wi.gov/ or call 1-866-HEATWIS.
If customers cannot reach an agreement with their utility, they may contact the PSC by calling 1-800-225-7729, or by filing a complaint on the PSC website.