Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan electric cooperatives have temporarily suspended disconnection of delinquent electric and gas accounts. While not required, all Michigan co-ops have agreed to abide by a non-disconnect affirmation that largely mirrors a Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) order which directs investor-owned utilities to suspend disconnects and waive late fees until June 1.
However, this effort to support member-consumers in crisis is not a bill waiver. Co-ops will continue to work with delinquent members on deferred payment plans and other assistance. NRECA also believes there is a strong possibility that Congress may tie future energy relief dollars to co-ops participating in statewide moratoriums.
By signing the non-disconnect affirmation, electric cooperatives confirm that the following minimum protections are in place for vulnerable customers related to bill payment, disconnection of service, and reconnection of service:
- Protections for Michigan’s low-income customers and seniors – Suspend disconnections for Michigan’s most vulnerable populations, low-income and senior customers, through June 1, 2020, and waive late fees for eligible low-income customers receiving energy assistance.
- Protections for customers medically affected by COVID-19 – Allow for customers exposed to, quarantined, or infected by COVID-19 to be eligible for an additional 30-day medical hold to suspend a disconnection service. The criteria and eligibility provisions for this medical hold are in addition to those set forth in Mich Admin Code, R 460.130.
- Restoration of electric and gas service – Waive deposits and reconnection fees for low-income customers, seniors, and customers experiencing financial hardship related to COVID-19 and seeking restoration of electric or natural gas service.
- Offer financial and customer assistance – Extend access to and flexibility of payment plans to customers financially impacted by COVID-19 and provide customer assistance personnel with the resources necessary to connect customers to available financial assistance and social service agencies.
- Safeguard customers and workforce employees – Safeguard customers and utility workers by limiting face-to-face contact through the closing of office lobbies, focusing efforts to provide emergency and critical infrastructure-related activities, and adopting COVID-19 best practices as outlined by the State of Michigan and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Suspending disconnects is one of many steps that co-ops have taken to reduce stress and provide local families and businesses with certainty during an uncertain time.