(Editor’s Note: The following article was submitted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission).
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) urges consumers to take advantage of expanded repayment plan and energy assistance programs to avoid service disconnection.
In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic peacetime emergency began, the PUC adopted measures to ensure Minnesotans had reliable power to stay at home safely. After conducting a thorough review of consumer safeguards, including data submitted by the rate-regulated gas and electric utilities, the PUC ordered a gradual return to normal service. This means that rate-regulated utilities began sending disconnection notices on June 1 and can begin disconnecting customers who have unpaid utility bills on August 2.
Utility consumers can avoid being disconnected by:
Applying for the Energy Assistance Program
Consumers who have submitted an application that is pending OR has been approved for the Energy Assistance Program will be protected from utility disconnection for one year, through April 30, 2022. Households with incomes below 60 percent of the state’s median income may be eligible, which is about $65,000 in annual income for a household of four. Only the past three months of income are counted, and recent stimulus payments or pandemic unemployment insurance premiums are not counted.
Minnesotans should apply now to determine if they are income-eligible for the Energy Assistance Program. Request an application or find your local service provider for the Energy Assistance Program here: Online: mn.gov/commerce/eap.jsp. By phone: Call 800-657-3710 and press 1.
The Department of Commerce has expanded energy assistance by raising income eligibility and extending the deadline to apply to Sept. 1, 2021.
Requesting a plan to repay what you owe
Consumers with past-due bills can call their utility and request to set up a plan to pay what they owe. Regulated utilities will not charge late fees or penalties for consumers who have entered and are complying with their plan for payment (including one missed payment if a consumer agrees to re-enter their plan).
Calling for help
Consumers in need of assistance should call their utility to discuss available options. For additional help, the PUC Consumer Affairs Office (CAO) is available to answer questions and to provide consumer mediation services. Ratepayers can contact the CAO at 651-296-0406, or 1-800-657-3782. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Negative credit reporting has permanently ended for the regulated utilities
By order of the PUC, consumers who have past-due utility bills will not have those late bills reported to credit reporting companies. Overdue payments reported to credit reporting companies can result in consumers having lower credit scores and reducing the consumer’s ability to obtain credit or loans.
About the Minnesota PUC
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission regulates three cornerstone service industries in Minnesota’s economy: electricity, natural gas and telephone service. The commission’s mission is to create and maintain a regulatory environment that ensures safe, adequate, and efficient utility services at fair, reasonable rates consistent with state telecommunications and energy policies. It does so by providing independent, consistent, professional, and comprehensive oversight and regulation of utility service providers. Learn more at mn.gov/puc.
Please contact Will Seuffert, 651-201-2217 or email@example.com if you have any questions.