[There are programs for people caught in the economic devastation of the COVID pandemic, but they’re not well-publicized. The utility companies have not consistently been informing customers who can’t pay their bills. The following excerpt, from the article, Dear Conn. Electric Customer: Know Your Rights, written by Susan Campbell, was printed in the April 4, 2021, New Haven Register.]
Dear Connecticut electric company customer:
During this difficult time, you are absolutely protected from having your power shut off. You can take advantage of multiple payment programs that can help you pay your bills, should you fall behind.
All Connecticut utility customers whose income is less than 60% of the state median income are eligible for affordable payment plans. Under many of these plans, if you pay your average monthly bill, the back bill can be wiped out. If you get disability, medical or other help from the state, you may be eligible for an affordable $50-per-month plan for a heat bill. Even when we aren’t in the middle of COVID, service cannot be turned off between Nov. 1 and May 1.
In addition, last April PURA announced a COVID-19 payment program for everyone. Even if you make too much money to qualify for a low-income-based program, you can still take advantage of the COVID payment plan, where your back bill is divided into 24 payments. The program was an acknowledgment that no matter a household income, people could be adversely affected with pandemic shut-downs or slowdowns.
You, the customer, are not supposed to have to ask about specific programs when you call a utility company, but customer service representatives have proven notoriously bad at sharing this information, so feel free to mention the COVID and hardship plan by name. If the representative declines to agree with you about a plan, ask to speak to a supervisor. If the supervisor is similarly hesitant, ask for a company review officer. If you still get nowhere, call PURA at (800) 382-4586. They can be extremely helpful.