Local utilities, municipalities address efforts to help people in financial dire straits during pandemic

Stock photo by Renee Gaudet from Pixabay, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses have been taking a hit as people are told to limit their social interactions or just stay home entirely. This has caused many to fear for the future of their businesses, and as people are being laid off due to economic reasons related to the pandemic, employees are left wondering if they’ll see their next paycheck.

While the uncertainty of one’s ability to pay the bills can be daunting, a ray of hope has been offered by commercial and municipal utilities for those impacted.

Last week, utility companies began to announce they would suspend the disconnection of services – and in some cases, even reconnect previously disconnected accounts – and local municipalities have said they will work with residents on a case-by-case basis as needs arise. One utility even warned customers about possible scams threatening customers with service disconnections.

Rocky Mountain Power

According to a statement from Rocky Mountain Power, the company is temporarily suspending nonpayment disconnections for customers in order to support the state of emergency response to the COVID-19 virus.

With many residents needing to self-isolate or work from home, the company stated it understands the importance of uninterrupted electric service.

“We’re just putting everything on pause,” Spencer Hall, a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power, told St. George News.

Utility payments overall are not being waived, Hall said, just put on hold for the time being.

While customers will still likely get automatic notices in the mail about balances due, Hall said “nobody is going to get cut off right now.”

Photo by OcusFocus/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Rocky Mountain Power has various programs available to aid households with their power bills, and Hall urges those in need at this time to call the company’s customer care line listed below to see how the power company may be able to help.

Additionally, Hall warned people of scams taking place involving threats of power disconnects if the company isn’t paid, and he reiterated that no utility disconnects are taking place during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. If someone receives a threat of disconnection for an unpaid bill, Hall suggested they hang up the phone immediately and contact Rocky Mountain Power directly.

Customers can call 1-888-221-7070 at any time to speak with a Rocky Mountain Power customer care agent who can help answer any questions.

Dominion Energy

A statement from Dominion Energy is sending the same message as Rocky Mountain Power.

“We will not shut off your power for nonpayment,” the statement reads. “People rely on us to meet critical needs, and they should not have to worry about losing service during this critical time. We have suspended all service disconnections as individuals, families, businesses and communities pull together to meet our collective needs.”

In additional to suspending service disconnects, Dominion Energy will also reconnect residential customers whose services were canceled due to nonpayment.

While the company is suspending disconnects and reconnecting services due to the pandemic so impacted customers have continued service, Dominion Energy spokesman Don Porter said customers will still need to pay for services. However, the company has worked – and will continue to work – with individuals on a case-by-case manner.

“We want to make sure people can still work and cook, as some are now out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Porter said.

To make arrangement for service restoration, Utah customers can call 1-800-323-5517.

Dixie Power

“We are aware of the financial and economic impacts involving COVID-19,” a release from the cooperative Dixie Power company states. “Because of this, we want to reassure our members that we will work with them through this challenging situation.”

Notices for disconnection will continue to be sent to members of balances due. However, the company will work with members on a case-by-case basis concerning their individual needs.

Dixie Power members can reach the company at 435-673-3297, or through the company’s website.

City of St. George response

“As it stands right now, we’re pretty lenient about our shut offs,” said David Cordero, the city of St. George’s communications and marketing director.

The city has a 90-day grace period for unpaid utility bills and is always willing to work with residents as long as they communicate their need, Cordero said.

“If you’re behind and need a little extra time, please, let us know,” he said.

Washington City

Washington City has a 45-day grace period for overdue utility bills. Washington City Mayor Ken Nielson said last week that the city is looking at the issue, though presently resident utility needs are addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Cedar City

Cedar City currently has a 60-day past-due grace period for utility payments before it shuts off services, Cedar City Manager Paul Bittmenn said. While the city also address utility issues on a case-by-case basis, Bittmenn added that the overall matter as related to the pandemic will be addressed by the Cedar City Council in an upcoming council meeting.

TDS and Century Link

Both internet service providers signed onto the “Keep Americans Connected” pledge put forth by the Federal Communications Commission on March 13.

Both Century Link and TDS are adopting all three tenets of the policy related to voice and broadband customers for a period of 60 days. These tenets include not terminating service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; waiving any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and opening Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Additionally, TDS recently announced that they would be offering free internet to low income families and college students for 60 days.

Ed. note: It was originally reported that Dominion Energy would temporarily waive charges. This was reported in error and has been corrected in the body of the text above. 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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