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SCC extends moratorium on utility shutoffs through October 5

Halloween storm knocks out power to nearly 13,000
Posted at 2:25 PM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 18:40:50-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia’s State Corporation Commission has extended a moratorium on utility shutoffs through October 5, 2020.

The extension comes after Governor Ralph Northam requested it Monday afternoon.

“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," Northam wrote in a letter to the Commission.

Tuesday, Northam noted that the budget he sent to the legislature includes a moratorium on utility disconnections, a repayment plan and a debt forgiveness program.

"These are important steps to help families keep the lights on while facing economic hardship," Northam added during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

The SCC’s moratorium, which was originally imposed on March 16, was set to expire Wednesday, September 16.

In an order Tuesday, the SCC announced the Commission will not extend the moratorium beyond October 5. The Commission urged the Northam and 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.

“We hope the General Assembly uses this additional time to act on this recommendation," the Commission added in a release.

“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.”

After the shutoff ban ends, customers who entered into extended payment plans will continue to be protected if they remain current or enter into new repayment plans.