But PUC commissioners express reluctance to extend it further.
A moratorium of utility disconnections for some Texans unable to pay their electric bills because of COVID-19 will continue in effect, thanks to a recent extension by state regulators.
On April 13 the Texas Public Utility Commission ordered a moratorium on disconnections for non-payment by low-income customers of the state’s vertically-integrated utilities outside the ERCOT region, namely Entergy, El Paso Electric, SPS and SWEPCO. That moratorium was set to expire on May 15, but the three PUC commissioners extended it until June 13. The commissioners also extended a moratorium for non-payment disconnections by water and sewer utilities that the agency regulates.
The PUC commissioners also reluctantly left open the possibility of extending the moratorium again, but stressed that another extension might not serve the public interest because unpaid utility bills eventually will come due.
“That’s why I was trying to keep (the moratorium) shorter — the hole (customers) are digging is going to get deeper and deeper the more we push it out,” said PUC chair DeAnn Walker.
The order does not impact the May 15th expiration of a moratorium on late fees for residential customers in areas of the state open to retail electric competition, or the scheduled July 17 expiration of the COVIC-19 Electricity Relief Program in competitive areas.
HOW TO APPLY for the Electricity Relief Program
To avoid electricity disconnections in deregulated areas, eligible customers can sign up for the state’s COVID-19 Electric Relief Program. But they may first want to request placement on a deferred payment plan by their retail electric provider. Eligible customers can sign up with the Relief Program by phone or online. As part of the process, the PUC will request documentation from customers showing they applied for unemployment benefits.
More information about the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program, as well as disconnection moratoriums for water and sewer customers can be found at the PUC website, at this link.
Separately, the PUC has warned customers about possible third-party scammers who have offered to help customers to sign up for the Electricity Relief Program. You can read more about that, here.
The Texas Railroad Commission regulates natural gas utilities and recently addressed the moratorium issue as it pertains to gas utility customers. You can read about that here.