Avoiding Utility Disconnections
By executive order from Gov. Tony Evers, Wisconsin has implemented a moratorium on disconnections for water utility customers and will extend the winter heating moratorium for electric and natural gas customers for the duration of the Public Health Emergency. That same order directed utilities to take steps to re-connect customers who have been shut off.
A second executive order on March 24 bars utility disconnection of businesses and waives late payment penalties and re-connection deposits during the emergency.
Does this mean I don't have to pay my utility bill?
No. If you are able to pay your utility bills you should continue to do so. Even if your service will not be disconnected during this period, your bills will continue to accumulate. You will still owe this amount to the utility when the emergency order is eventually lifted and utilities begin disconnection proceedings again.
Again, continue to pay your utility bill if you are able to. The Public Health Emergency is not a free pass on your utility bills.
What if I can't pay the entire amount due?
We strongly recommend that you make at least partial payments on your bills as you are able. Even if your service will not be disconnected during this period, your bills will continue to accumulate. Any payments you can make now will reduce the amount you owe when the emergency order is eventually lifted and utilities begin disconnection proceedings again.
What if I am behind on my bills?
Call your utility and ask to arrange a payment plan that works given your personal financial circumstances. Ask them to waive any late fees during this period. If you have been affected by the COVID-19 emergency, make sure to tell them. Some utilities are making special arrangements for people who have been affected that may not be available to people undergoing financial hardships for other reasons.
What if i have a payment agreement and my financial situation has changed??
If your financial circumstances change and you are no longer able to follow your payment arrangement, contact your utility again to restructure the arrangement based on your new situation.
What if I am worried my service will be disconnected for non-payment?
If you are worried about your service being disconnected for non-payment, call your utility and make sure that it will not be disconnected. You will probably have to make and follow a payment arrangement. If you have been affected by the COVID-19 emergency, make sure to tell them.
What if my service is already disconnected?
If your service is already disconnected, call your utility and ask to have the service reconnected immediately. If you have been affected by the COVID-19 emergency, make sure to tell them.
CONTACT YOUR UTILITY
Here are COVID-19 resources for each of the state’s major electric, natural gas and water utilities:
The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program is available for residents seeking assistance with electricity and heating bills. The state, in response to the Public Health Emergency, revised the eligibility requirements for residents who are seeking heating and electric assistance through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP).
Wisconsin will be getting additional WHEAP funding through the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, approved late last month by Congress.
WHEAP eligibility will now be based on the household’s previous month of income, rather than the former requirement of the previous three months of income. This move was made to ensure those who are recently affected by the COVID-19 response are able to receive assistance quickly.
The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) provides assistance for heating costs, electric costs, and energy crisis situations. Operating with federal and state funding, the program provides assistance to households across the state to help lower the burden incurred with monthly energy costs. More information:
Phone: 866-HEATWIS (866-432-8947)
Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund (KWWF) is a statewide, non-profit charitable effort established in 1996 to keep the heat and power on for our most vulnerable Wisconsinites (elderly, disabled, working families, veterans). Through public, private, and community partnerships, KWWF may be able to provide preventative services and financial assistance to alleviate potential life-threatening energy-related emergencies. More information: www.kwwf.org or 800-891-9276
Focus on Energy, Wisconsin utilities’ statewide energy efficiency program, is adjusting to the pandemic and has cancelled in-person visits by consultants to do home energy assessments.
However, free energy packs are still available from Focus, and you can find an array of products to help save energy at Focus’ online marketplace. and Focus has some #SaferAtHome energy tips for around the house here.
More information: www.focusonenergy.com or 800-762-7077.
Focus on Energy partners with CUB an outreach and education sponsor for CUB’s 40th Anniversary. For more ideas on energy savings, check out CUB’s Consumer Resources page.
Some U.S. utilities have reported an uptick in scammers taking advantage of the COVID-19 emergency. A caller may demand immediate payment to prevent your service from being disconnected. Check out CUB’s Stopping Scams Guide here.
Some common scams:
- A caller whose phone number matches your utility aggressively says your account is overdue and service will be disconnected if a large payment is not made ASAP. They instruct you to quickly buy a prepaid debit card and call back with the debit card number.
- Suspicious emails appearing to be from your utility may seek account or personal information. Utilities won’t ask for bill payment info via email. Check the sender’s email address: It may be slightly, or markedly, different from the one your utility uses.
Utilities will never call to threaten shut-off, and during the pandemic all disconnections are barred by Gov. Evers’ executive orders.
If you have have questions or need information beyond what’s provided here, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.