DEEP Requests PURA Issue Emergency Orders to Protect Utility Ratepayers During COVID-19 Pandemic
March 17, 2020
HARTFORD, CT – On March 17, 2020, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) petitioned the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to investigate and address several issues to help protect Connecticut residents and businesses during the public health and civil preparedness emergencies related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Connecticut, and for a period of economic recovery afterward. DEEP seeks a variety of measures to help mitigate impacts for all utility customers, with a particular focus on low- and moderate- income individuals and families, underserved communities, businesses, and non-profit companies.
Specifically, DEEP requested that PURA consider taking the following actions:
- Issue emergency orders extending PURA's existing temporary moratorium on residential utility service disconnections to all regulated electric, gas and water utility customers, including businesses and non-profit organizations, and suspending late fees and other penalties on delinquent customers;
- Issue emergency orders waiving fees and deposits to enable the streamlined connection of regulated electric, gas and water utility customers who are currently without utility services, including those who were disconnected prior to the moratorium;
- Issue emergency orders related to outreach to small and midsize businesses and non-profit organizations in financial distress to establish bill payment arrangements;
- Require the provision of payment plans to all customer classes;
- Work with DEEP and the utilities to help customers avoid any negative consequences of temporary non-payment for all on-bill financing mechanisms, including residential heating equipment loans and loans implemented under the Small Business Energy Advantage Program;
- Accelerate consideration of methods to streamline income-eligible residential customer applications to access affordability/rate relief programs;
- Accelerate consideration of expanding existing program eligibility requirements and limits for various affordability programs and explore potential new programs to fill identified gaps in assistance to customers of all rate classes.
As recommended by the Governor, the Department of Public Health, and federal authorities, many Connecticut families are now engaged in social distancing at home, and, now more than ever, will require utility service in order to maintain a healthy home environment. Individuals who are not working because their work cannot be performed remotely are likely to be facing financial hardship. Maintaining affordable utility service during this time will be critical to the health and financial well-being of all utility customers and to the preservation of our economic vitality. DEEP is prepared to engage on these issues and others as we work through this unprecedented health crisis.