The clock is ticking for those behind on their utilities.
Beginning July 25, We Energies will once again be able to disconnect services.
Here’s what you need to know to keep the lights on.
What is happening?
If you are behind in payments and have not made arrangements, your utility provider can disconnect services starting July 25.
In addition, utilities can now charge late payment fees on debts incurred after July 15; refuse service for failure to provide documentation to prove identity and residency after July 25; and require a cash deposit as a condition of new service starting July 31.
I thought residents got a pass on paying utilities. What happened?
Last month, the Public Service Commission, or PSC, lifted a temporary prohibition against disconnecting or refusing service. The commission, an independent agency that regulates Wisconsin’s public utilities, allowed utilities to restart issuing disconnection notices on July 15.
The utilities, however, must allow a 21-day medical extension of service when a customer or a member of a customer’s household has tested positive for COVID-19.
If a member of the household is still under a COVID-19 quarantine after 21 days, he or she can apply for a temporary waiver so long as they can provide documentation from a medical provider.
What can I do if I haven’t made payments?
The PSC strongly encourages customers behind on payments to arrange for a payment plan or apply for assistance.
If customers cannot reach an agreement with their utility, they may contact the PSC by calling 1-800-225-7729 or file a complaint on the PSC website.
My provider is We Energies. What should I do?
We Energies recommends that customers who are having difficulty paying their bill call 800-842-4565 as soon as possible to discuss options, including payment plans and the potential for financial assistance.
“Disconnection is always a last resort,” said Brendan Conway, manager of media relations at We Energies. “We have been working closely with customers during the COVID-19 crisis and are continuing to do so.”
What other resources are available
In addition to calling We Energies directly to ask about payment plans, Milwaukee County also offers energy assistance for low-income residents through Community Advocates and UMOS.
Income requirements for energy assistance are based on the number of people in your household and can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services’ website. Unemployment income and stimulus checks do not count as income when applying for energy assistance.
Additionally, if your utilities are included in your rent, but you still meet the income requirements, you may still be eligible to receive energy assistance.
Due to COVID-19, applicants only have to provide income statements from the month prior to the month they are applying. This means that people applying in July only have to provide proof of income for June. Previously, applicants had to provide evidence of income for three prior months.
Cleopatra Echols, program manager for Milwaukee County’s energy assistance program, says that it is best to apply now if you think you’ll need it — even if you are unsure whether you qualify or if you have not received a disconnection notice.
“People think that if they don’t have a past due bill they won’t qualify, or they don’t have kids they won’t qualify, or if they receive unemployment they won’t qualify,” Echols said. “But this isn’t true, you can still qualify if you are on unemployment, don’t have kids or don’t have a past-due bill.”
How do I apply?
To apply for energy assistance, you can schedule an appointment or call 2-1-1. You can also call 414-270-4MKE to schedule an appointment, but due to an unexpected high volume of calls, you may be on hold for an extended period of time.
“If you need help, call us, even if you are not sure if you qualify,” Echols said. “Even if you don’t qualify, we know about other resources we can refer you to.”
Stay in touch
Are you worried about your utilities being disconnected during or after the pandemic? Share your experiences with News414.
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