LACEY, Wash. - State regulators extended protections for electric and natural gas utility customers experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic, following an extension of Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide ratepayer assistance proclamation.
The commission ordered investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington to continue a moratorium on disconnections for nonpayment until Sept. 30, 2021. Utilities will continue to waive deposits for new customers and all late fees through March 29, 2022.
Customers struggling to pay their utility bills should contact their utilities today to ask about their options, which include assistance funds, long-term payment plans, and budget billing. The Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission (UTC) ordered each of their investor-owned energy utilities to create temporary COVID-19 bill relief programs, resulting in more than $40 million in new assistance funds available to customers.
Customers are eligible for these funds if they earn no more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, and individual customers can receive up to $2,500 per year in additional bill assistance. Even if a customer has already received help, or doesn’t think they qualify, they should still call their utility today. They can also visit www.utc.wa.gov/CovidHelp to learn more.
UTC staff are also available to assist customers who need help working with their utilities and are available at 888-333-WUTC (9882) or via chat during regular business hours at www.utc.wa.gov.
In April 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation banning energy, water, and telecommunication companies from disconnecting customers due to nonpayment, refusing to reconnect residential customers who were disconnected for nonpayment, and charging late fees or reconnection fees.Last year, the UTC organized a COVID-19 response workgroup of stakeholders to facilitate development of guidelines to make sure that customers experiencing economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic maintain access to essential services after the proclamation expires. As a result of this stakeholder work, the UTC issued a disconnection moratorium and term sheet for its investor-owned energy utilities, including additional customer protections and communication guidelines.
The UTC regulates the rates and services of the state’s investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities, landline telephone companies, and private water systems among other industries. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.