Moratorium on utility disconnections extended in Virginia until Oct. 5 after governor's request

Natural Gas Pipes
Posted at 6:41 PM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 18:41:39-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Following Gov. Ralph Northam's request, the State Corporation Commission has extended the moratorium on utility disconnections.

The general moratorium on utility shutoffs is extended through October 5. It was originally set to end on September 16.

In a letter to the Commission on September 14, Gov. Northam said, “My request for an extension will give the General Assembly the time they need to address this issue, finalize their budget, and complete their important work during this special session.”

In granting another extension, the Commission said it will not extend the moratorium beyond October 5. The SCC urged the governor and the General Assembly to appropriate funds for direct financial assistance to those customers who are unable to pay their bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commission said, “We hope the General Assembly uses this additional time to act on this recommendation.”

The Commission wrote, “Since we first imposed the moratorium on March 16, 2020, we have warned repeatedly that this moratorium is not sustainable indefinitely. The mounting costs of unpaid bills must eventually be paid, either by the customers in arrears or by other customers who themselves may be struggling to pay their bills. Unless the General Assembly explicitly directs that a utility's own shareholders must bear the cost of unpaid bills, those costs will almost certainly be shifted to other paying customers.”

The SCC’s latest extension order means the moratorium will have been in place for more than six months. It was originally imposed on March 16 as an emergency measure to protect customers from the immediate economic impacts of COVID-19.

Related: Officials extend ban on utility service cut-offs in Virginia, North Carolina

The end of the Commission-directed moratorium on October 5 does not mean the end of protections for customers in arrears who are making a good-faith effort to pay their bills over a longer time period. Customers who enter such extended payment plans with their utilities will continue to be protected from service cut-offs even after the end of this moratorium.

Click here to read more about the extension of the moratorium.

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