Washington’s utility bill moratorium ends — what this means for you

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Washington’s ban on disconnecting utilities and services due to nonpayment ended Thursday. Officials are urging customers to reach out to their companies for assistance before it’s too late.

The state banned utility companies from shutting off the water, electricity, and natural gas in April 2020 but now it’s over.

“It’s kind of a big change for our customers. It’s been over 16 months now since we’ve done a disconnect for nonpayment,” said Franklin PUD Customer Service Manager Abby Borchers.

But just because the moratorium is ending does not mean utilities and services will immediately stop starting Oct. 1.

“It won’t be a mass shut-off by any means,” Borchers said. “We’re not out there to shut off the power just because, we’re trying to work with the customer.”

Jenny Sparks, the customer engagement manager for the Benton PUD, said if you’re behind on payments, the most important thing you can do is to reach out to make a plan.

“We will give ample notice for accounts that are past due that could face disconnect. We are encouraging customers to contact us once they receive that first bill, if they are past due, to help us work with them,” Sparks said. “Also to set up the long-term payment arrangements, to see if they’ve taken advantage of our customer assistance program or in the pay-as-you-go program.”

Borchers added that “the next couple of weeks are crucial.”

“Helping customers is the goal. We’ll reach out multiple times via letter or automated call. We’ll try to contact the person before they’re disconnected,” Borchers said. “We’re just urging customers to please reach out before that point.”

Borchers also recommends being on high alert for potential payment-related scams.

“People are faking our phone number and calling customers, telling them they’re there to disconnect the power and they need a payment right then,” Borchers said. “We’ll never force a payment over the phone.”

Multiple assistance programs are still available to help with payments. The Washington UTC also has more COVID-19 utility assistance resources on its website.

For more information and other resources, check out Washington’s commerce department’s website here.

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