COVID-19: How CUB is Responding

We all face challenges from the COVID-19 crisis. Here at CUB we think worrying about your utility service should not be one of them. And, thanks to quick work and cooperation from Governor Tony Evers and our utilities, Wisconsin customers don’t fear being shut off or incurring penalties or big charges to re-connect their service.

At CUB, the work our staff has performed for the last 40 years goes on.

We’re operating a bit differently now, all working remotely from our homes, but we’re still at work to protect the interests of Wisconsin’s residential and small business customers. And we’ve worked to provide resources specific to COVID19 on a new page on our website. Check it out at www.cubwi.org/covid19.

Gov. Evers has issued two executive orders essentially barring utility disconnections for residential and business customers and directing utilities to reconnect customers who are shut off.  These actions apply to electric, natural gas and water utilities across the state. The second order enables waivers of late fees and allows for reconnections without paying the utility a deposit.

These are all important steps to help keep a roof over Wisconsinites’ heads and enable them to focus on their livelihoods and taking the proper social distancing steps so Wisconsin can “flatten the curve” under Evers’ #SaferAtHome designation.

CUB is pleased that all the state’s major utilities – We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, Xcel Energy (Northern States Power), Alliant Energy (Wisconsin Power & Light) and Madison Gas & Electric  – have joined utilities across the country in making commitments not to shut off customers during this critical time.

The PSC has opened two cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and CUB is involved in both. One involves accounting issues linked to costs utilities are spending during the crisis. The other deals with a variety of related issues.

The challenges with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are complex, dangerous and thorny.

Some key points:

  • Stay safe. Follow the recommendations outlined by the Department of Health Services to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19.
  • Call your utility to arrange a payment plan if you need one. Consider budget billing, which evens out the wide swings in energy costs over a year’s time.
  • Try to save energy where you can. It’s expected that residential energy usage will go up now that all non-essential businesses are shuttered temporarily and folks work from home. Consider steps to save on your energy bill. Check out CUB’s Simple Steps to Save Energy as well as this COVID-19-related message from the state Focus on Energy program.
  • Beware of scams. Scam activity by imposters trying to mask themselves as utility employees may increase during the crisis. But it’s important to be vigilant.  Check out CUB’s Stopping Scams Guide here.

 

 

CUB is continuing to monitor this crisis and the actions of utilities across the state and the nation.

Through the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, CUB is also monitoring how utility regulators and advocates across the country are responding. It’s gratifying that utilities are taking steps to re-connect customers who are shut off, given the severity of the public health emergency.

Our work on this issue will extend far beyond this year, and CUB will be there, vigilant for those who can least afford to withstand the economic emergency that has hit along with the pandemic.

 

On behalf of the CUB Board of Directors and Corey and Rich on the CUB team, I hope you are staying safe, managing your way through the crisis and reaching out to those in need.

Be well,

Tom Content