On April 5 the Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order ending the current moratorium, permitting utility disconnections to resume after April 15, 2021.
Now, the PSC is urging residents with outstanding utility bills to make payment arrangements to avoid shut off.
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If you are having financial troubles, you may be eligible for assistance from the Department of Administration's Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP).
You can find the application for the WHEAP program here.
A spokesperson for We Energies says service disconnections won’t just happen immediately. But tens of thousands of We Energies customers will start getting notifications. We Energies confirms they’re processing the paperwork now, and will be putting notices of past-due payments in the mail on Tuesday, April 20.
If customers are concerned, they should call We Energies directly at 1-800-842-4565 or visit we-energies.com.
“Even once you get the notice in the mail, it’s not too late, please give us a call,” said Alison Trouy, a spokesperson for We Energies. “Don’t panic, we really are here to help you.”
We Energies says less than 1% of their total 2.2 million gas and electric customers in Wisconsin are at risk of disconnection. That’s still about 22,000 people.
Trouy is also warning of a different problem tied to this issue.
“If somebody gives you a call demanding immediate payment, saying you’ll be at risk of shut-off in the next 30 minutes or whatever amount of time, that’s a scam,” said Trouy. “Do not fall for that.”
Already vulnerable, low-income customers will be hit the hardest by the end of the utility moratorium. They spend a higher proportion of their overall income on keeping lights and heats on. That’s according to a recent study by the Sierra Club.
The same study found neighborhoods most likely to face high energy burdens are disproportionately Black and Hispanic.
In all of Wisconsin, more than 93,000 residential customers and 4,800 commercial customers are at risk of having a utility service disconnected this month, according to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
“The first step you should take is to call your utility company directly,” said Tara Pray, with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. “Even if you faced difficulty in working with your utility company in the past, this is a new day and people should not be avoiding them, but trying to work something out. If you weren’t eligible for assistance in the past, you may be eligible now, so it’s worth a try.”
Pray says there is more help available than ever, because of federal stimulus money.
If you live in Milwaukee County, organizations like Community Advocates and UMOS are trying to help as many people navigate this as possible. You should call 414-270-4653 or visit keepwarmmke.org.
If you are outside Milwaukee County, call 866-432-8947 or visit homeenergyplus.wi.gov.
This does have far-reaching implications. Utility companies somehow have to recoup the money owed. To do that, they may have to request future rate increases for all customers.