Eversource Energy announced in a news release on Friday that the energy provider would suspend utility disconnections for nonpayment.
The decision comes after a statewide moratorium on utility disconnections expired Oct. 1, and the Public Utilities Regulatory chose not to extend it, despite pleas from both Eversource and United Illuminating. Marissa Gillett, chair of the state’s utilitary regulator PURA, had pressed the companies to “voluntarily extend the moratorium.”
Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said the company made the decision to suspend disconnections because it was the right thing to do for both its customers and employees with COVID-19 cases rising in Connecticut and the holidays approaching.
“At the same time, we remain focused on working individually with our customers to help them reduce their energy use, enroll in one of our flexible payment programs or connect with other options to help,” Eversource Vice President of Customer Operations Jessica Cain said in the news release. “We’ll continue working with our regulators, elected officials and other stakeholders as the pandemic persists to evaluate next steps for resuming collections activities in an appropriate time frame.”
Eversource has explained repeatedly that customers spending more time at home because of COVID restrictions and precautions has led to higher electricity usage, and bills, over the summer.
As is usually the case, seasonal electric rates will also be higher in the coming winter months.
Gross said that more than 60,000 Connecticut customers have agreed on a COVID payment plan or have signed up for a low-income program like the Winter Protection Program that protects eligible customers from having their utilities shut off for nonpayment from Nov. 1 to May 1.
Customers can enroll in the COVID payment plan program through Feb. 9, 2021, and can arrange to pay past-due balances with a payment plan for up to 24 months. Their accounts will be protected from disconnection throughout a payment plan, according to Eversource.
The Winter Protection Program protects customers from shutoffs for not paying bills if they meet certain criteria, including that they receive aid like Supplemental Security Income or Aid to the Aged, Blind or Disabled, if their income comes entirely from Social Security or Veterans Administration, or their income is below 60 percent of the state median income.
Connecticut also has protections against life-threatening utility shutoffs, meaning the company can’t shut off power for non-payment if the customer is in a life-threatening situation, is suffering from a serious illness or has a child two years or younger who needs utility service for their health.
More information about payment plans or assistance for Eversource bills can be found on the company’s website, or by calling 800-286-2828.