Virginia utility companies ordered to keep service going, but for how much longer?

Posted at 3:31 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 07:17:15-04

NORFOLK, Va. - During the COVID-19 pandemic, utility companies have been required to continue service to customers regardless of whether they could pay.

Now, the State Corporation Commission is wondering what the next steps should be as an order preventing suspension of service expires on June 15. They're asking the public to weigh in online.

“While we recognize the hardships faced by many Virginians as a result of the COVID-19 catastrophe, the reality is that a moratorium on all service disconnections due to unpaid bills is not sustainable on an unlimited basis in the absence of programs to ensure that the growing costs of unpaid bills are not unfairly shifted to other customers," the commission said in a statement.

The commission is asking the public whether the order should be extended again. If so, they want ideas on how to help offset costs.

They're also wondering whether the order should become voluntary.

Dominion Energy says they offered to reconnect service and suspended disconnections voluntarily early on in the pandemic. "The last thing we want is for [customers] to have to worry about during a crisis like this is whether they would have electricity," said Bonita Harris, a spokesperson for Dominion Energy. "We were happy to step up and help."

As for next steps, Dominion Energy is playing it by ear. "It's an ever-changing situation," said Harris. "Who knows what the situation will be on June 15? It's one we continue to evaluate. Our main priority is to help our customers."

Customers who haven't been paying will still be charged for their energy usage but won't face late fees or interest, said Harris. Going forward, she said Dominion Energy will work out repayment options with those customers. They're encouraging people to pay what they can now.

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