PUC Extends Halt on Utility Disconnections

On Monday, the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued an order that would extend the moratorium on involuntary utility disconnections due to nonpayment of electricity, natural gas, and landline phone through May 31st, 2021. Under the previous order, it would have expired this Wednesday.   

This is good news. We are grateful that the PUC has decided to use its authority to ensure that no Vermonter is disconnected from vital services while in the midst of another uptick in COVID-19 cases.

And we appreciate utilities who continue to work with their customers to deal with this enormous challenge.   

But we are disappointed that the Commission decided not to co-extend the moratorium alongside the state of emergency (and therefore with moratoria on evictions and foreclosures) as Legal Aid requested in their petition –there’s no reason the possibility of utility disconnections should exist while the state of emergency is in place. And that’s a case we’ll keep making as long as we have to. 

Additional federal relief and stimulus money will be made available in the coming weeks to help Vermonters cover their arrearages, and we will be working with Vermont Legal Aid on policy to help direct this money to Vermonters in need as quickly and efficiently as possible.  

An excerpt from the PUC order extending the moratorium through May 31st:

“On March 17, 2021, public comments were filed by the Vermont Public Interest Research
Group, on behalf of itself and other organizations (the “VPIRG Coalition”), in support of
maintaining the moratorium on utility disconnections. The VPIRG Coalition asks the
Commission ‘to continue the temporary halt of involuntary utility disconnections (the
moratorium) through the end of the state of emergency in Vermont because of the COVID-19
pandemic.’ The VPIRG Coalition further notes that ‘[i]f there was ever a time for the
[Commission] to use its power to ensure Vermonters are not cut off from their vital utilities, it is
now: as we are just beginning to recover from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that has upended
our entire way of life.'”

Earlier this month, VPIRG led a coalition of 20 other organizations in submitting a sign-on letter in support of Vermont Legal Aid’s petition to extend the moratorium. Read the full letter to the PUC below: