A request to extend an emergency rule temporarily preventing all electric, natural gas and water disconnections across Missouri has been denied.
The Public Service Commission indicated to the Consumers Council of Missouri that the denial is because the request to extend didn’t meet the criteria for the emergency rule.
They say it’s because most of the regulated utilities have already placed their own moratoriums on disconnections, and that their repayment and financial programs were still open and well-funded.
The commission also indicated that by stopping regular disconnections could harm customers, as it makes them ineligible to receive assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy program.
JEFFERSON CITY—The Missouri Public Service Commission has denied a request filed by Consumers Council of Missouri which sought Commission issuance of an emergency rule that would temporarily prevent electric, natural gas, and water disconnections through March 31, 2021, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commission found the rulemaking requested does not meet the criteria for the issuance of an emergency rule.
“At the beginning of the pandemic in this state, the large Commission-regulated utilities each voluntarily placed a moratorium on residential disconnections. This action allowed the utilities time to take the necessary legal and organizational steps to revise their payment plans, collections processes, customer financial assistance programs, and other operations to better serve their customers during the pandemic,” said the Commission. “These utilities reported to the Commission that most of their repayment and financial assistance programs were still available and were funded. Additionally, stopping the regular disconnection processes may unintentionally harm customers by making them ineligible to receive financial assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) because no disconnection was imminent. The utilities stated that customers often did not seek help with payment plans and financial assistance until prompted to do so by receiving a disconnection notice. Further, placing a moratorium on disconnections may leave customers with insurmountable arrearages when the moratorium expires.”
“The Commission finds that the programs put in place by the utilities to avoid disconnections during the pandemic should be allowed an opportunity to work and have been working,” said the Commission.