It is going to be a busy summer once utility moratoria are lifted. Based on feedback from agencies, applications remain steady but the applications have yet to reflect the huge numbers of newly unemployed. Agencies are receiving inquiries from clients that have not requested assistance in the past and are gearing up for what many expect will be a surge in appointments when shutoffs begin again.
Columbia Gas is the only utility to file a transition plan with the PUCO. Under the Columbia plan, shutoffs would begin on July 29th. All rules related to re-verification and anniversary dates for Percentage Income Payment Plan customers would again apply as of that date, so customers that have not been reverified would be dropped and others that have not made up missed payments would also be forced off PIPP.
OPAE filed comments in the Columbia case requesting a variety of changes to the transition plan, including the extension of the shutoff moratorium until the Winter Reconnect Order is issued in mid-October. OPAE also called for suspending requirements to make up back payments under the anniversary date until March 31, 2021, or when the Commission issues new credit and disconnection rules, which are currently pending.
ODSA also announced its final decisions regarding the Summer Crisis Program. The new program, designed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, will be implemented on July 1 and will last through September 30, 2020.
- Households with members over 60 or a documented medical condition;
- Households with a member diagnosed with COVID-19;
- PIPP customer with defaulted PIPP payment or an initial PIPP payment, with a central air conditioner in need of repairs, or in need of an window air conditioner or fan; or,
- A household with a disconnect notice, or establishing new service. The household can also receive a window air conditioner or fan, or repairs to a central air conditioner.
- Up to $500 in total benefits to customers of regulated utilities; or,
- Up to $800 in total benefits to customers of unregulated utilities.
- Central air conditioning repairs up to $500 are eligible.
- Air conditioners are valued at $200.
- Fans are valued at $100.
These benefit amounts appear adequate to get people through the summer season and until the winter reconnect order is issued. OPAE continues to advocate for a continuation of the moratoria until the winter reconnect order is issued, and for a suspension of the PIPP anniversary date requirements.