Gov. Jared Polis’ executive order to ban utility disconnections due to nonpayment because of the COVID-19 pandemic is long expired, but that doesn’t mean consumers don’t have options if they are having trouble paying their bills.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission says there are several things they can do to delay any possible disconnection, depending on their situation, not the least of which is Polis’ executive order, which he extended earlier this week, that requires utilities to waive reconnection fees and accrual of late payments for their residential and small business clients.
The PUC says that most utilities will work with customers who are having difficulties paying bills, and will make payment arrangements, particularly during the current public health crisis. The three-member commission, which oversees such things as utilities and telecommunications companies, recommends that consumers first contact their power suppliers to discuss those options.
For those consumers who have a medical need to maintain power to their homes if their electricity comes from an investor-owned utility, such as Xcel Energy, they can prevent a shutoff by providing a medical certification from a doctor or health care practitioner. That certificate must state that disconnecting service would pose a health or safety danger for themselves or someone else in the household.
Those clients, however, can only delay a pending disconnection for up to 90 days during any 12-month consecutive period.
In the meantime, consumers who still are having problems with paying their utility bills also may qualify for aid from Energy Outreach Colorado or the Colorado Low-Income Assistance Program, known as LEAP.
Energy Outreach is a nonprofit organization that provides assistance beyond that offered by utilities or LEAP, a federally funded program that helps pay for a portion of customers’ power bills.
To qualify for that program, consumers must earn less than 60% of the state median income level. The amount they can receive depends on their income and their primary heating fuel costs.
And for customers still having issues, they can contact the PUC’s consumer affairs unit by calling (303) 894-2070 or filing a complaint form on the PUC website at puc.colorado.gov.
While the governor’s order placing a moratorium on disconnections expired in June, he did extend his order to prevent evictions under certain circumstances on Monday. That order extends until Sept. 10 unless the governor extends it again.