(May 6, 2020)
The Public Utility Commission has shortened the moratorium on utility shutoffs for low income customers in Texas. Responding to the coronavirus outbreak in late March, the PUC initially banned shutoffs by retail electricity providers for six months for anyone receiving SNAP benefits or unemployment payments. However, the latest ruling states the prohibition will expire July 17, just under four months after it began.
“As the world deals with an unprecedented array of challenges, we are working closely with industry participants, consumer advocates, and other state agencies to ensure we are taking the steps necessary to assist those customers impacted the hardest by the pandemic,” said PUC chairman DeAnn Walker.
Andrew Barlow, spokesman for the PUC, added that allowing the suspension to last six months would cause problems for electricity providers. “If we don’t take effective measures to maintain the strength of that retail competition marketplace, a lot of companies could go belly up,” he argued.
The PUC also agreed to earlier expiration dates for several additional assistance measures. A ban on water and sewage disconnections, two services which are regulated by the PUC, expires May 15, along with a late fee waiver program for utility customers. Outside of the competitive marketplace, including in areas served by Entergy, SWEPCO, El Paso Electric, and SPS, a moratorium on disconnections also expires on May 15.