Utilities regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission will extend shutoff protections and flexible payment options for vulnerable customers through June 12, state officials announced today.
The extension coincides with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent executive order continuing the state’s stay-at-home order through the same date.
Over the past month, regulated utilities have filed plans with the MPSC detailing their handling of the coronavirus pandemic and customer protections, such as suspending disconnections, waiving late fees for vulnerable customers and offering payment plans. The utilities’ halt to shut offs is voluntary.
“The MPSC is encouraged by the utilities’ continued cooperation in assisting customers needing help during such challenging times,” MPSC Chairman Sally Talberg said in a statement. “We urge anyone struggling to pay their utility bill to reach out now for help.”
While shutoff protections have been extended, officials in Michigan and other states remain concerned about the ability for customers negatively affected by COVID-19 to pay utility bills when they come due. Across the U.S., moratoriums on utility shutoffs are set to expire in the coming weeks, ahead of the summer.
Talberg told E&E News last week — following a May 14 DTE Energy report that more than 1.6 million electric and gas customer accounts were more than 90 days past due at the end of the first quarter — that the MPSC is “very concerned” about shutoffs in the coming weeks and months.
“It’s a very significant risk,” Talberg told the publication. “And there could be long-term effects of this crisis in terms of customers’ ability to pay utility bills and bad debt expense.”