On Sunday, March 22, Gov. Tony Evers suspended additional utility rules and laid out more consumer protections for Wisconsin residents and businesses.
Evers directed the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to extend the orders released earlier this month to include more protective provisions. The announcement included six actions intended to offer reassurance to utility consumers as the state battles the state of emergency caused by the deadly COVID-19 virus.
PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq called on utility services statewide to: stop disconnections for all customers (the previous directive only protected residential consumers); cease the assessment of late fees; halt deposit requirements for consumers seeking service reconnection; allow deferred payment plans for customers upon request; remove administrative barriers for establishing utility service, and provide budgeting arrangements for water utilities.
“It is critically important to give people flexibility during this emergency, when paychecks might be disrupted, to keep the lights and heat on and water flowing,” said Evers.
These utility rule suspensions came one day before Evers issued a #SaferatHome order, which will go into effect Tuesday, March 24. The latest order will require all non-essential businesses to close and will restrict any gatherings of more than 10 people.
“I want to thank the governor for his prompt action on this and our utility providers for their continued efforts to keep our homes and businesses supplied with light, heat, and water,” said Valcq. “This is a difficult time for many. We’re asking that those who are able to pay their utility bills, please continue to do so. For those who can’t, today’s order allows them to remain connected.”
The state is already under a winter disconnection moratorium for water, electric and natural gas utilities used for heating. The winter moratorium lasts until April 15 but will be extended due to the crisis, according to a statement from the PSC.
As the state continues to battle the impact of COVID-19 under a state of emergency, the latest moratorium will halt the suspension of all services. This includes water, which is not typically protected as it is not necessary for heating systems.
“We have been working aggressively to slow the spread of COVID-19, and this declaration allows us to get the resources we need to continue to be proactive when it comes to protecting Wisconsinites,” said Evers in a statement.
Editor's note: This story was originally published March 21, and was updated March 23 with the governor's extended order.