Governor Lamont Urges Regulators To Reject Plan for Resumption of Service Disconnections During COVID-19 Pandemic
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Files Objection to PURA on Behalf of Utility Customers
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration has filed an objection to motions under consideration at the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to approve plans submitted by Eversource Energy and the United Illuminating Company to begin allowing for the disconnection of customers for non-payment for the time since PURA first implemented a shut-off moratorium in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lamont administration’s objections, which was made through the leadership of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), noted that resuming disconnections at this time would have a devastating impact on many customers who are still struggling to pay their utility bills in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The shutoff moratorium has provided important financial relief and contributed to significant social and health benefits. A recent study performed by the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that “moratoria on utility disconnections reduce[d] COVID-19 infections by 4.4 percent and mortality rates by 7.4 percent.”
In the objection, DEEP pointed out that disconnections should not resume until additional protections for struggling ratepayers are in place, noting that many ratepayers will soon be eligible for some level of assistance from the federal government, which has designated more than $200 million to Connecticut to assist renters with rent and utility payments.
“Connecticut’s COVID comeback is happening, but we have a long way still to go and people are still suffering physically, socially, and financially,” Governor Lamont said. “PURA’s shut-off moratorium and other state actions have provided crucial mitigation to the pandemic burden for all of our residents, but especially those disproportionately impacted minority communities who have the highest energy burdens on their household budgets. We are simply too early in our comeback to begin lifting these lifesaving protections now and we believe that there is potential for more help to be on the way.”
The DEEP filing states, “Connecticut is on a path to recovery as more of the population receives COVID-19 vaccines. In the meantime, residents must continue social distancing, parents are often left with no option for childcare, and many residents are unemployed or underemployed. As a result, many ratepayers are still struggling to pay their bills, and Eversource and Avangrid need to do more to demonstrate that customers have been made aware of all of their options for assistance.”
It continues, “The Authority [PURA] should delay residential terminations until compliance is established, and also given the pending availability of federal assistance for renters with utility arrearages, ongoing efforts with [Department of Social Services] to implement data sharing that will streamline hardship qualification, and the near-term establishment of a low-income discount rate this summer. The Authority should also consider extending repayment terms beyond 24 months for the COVID-19 Repayment Plan. Resuming disconnections at this time would unnecessarily affect ratepayers who might benefit from these future initiatives and be able to avoid shut-off as a result.”