A press release from Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson is offering guidance for utility customers who have past due accounts and may be at risk of a utility shutoff. The statewide moratorium on utility disconnections ends on Sept. 30.
In June, there were more than 280,000 people who had past due bills with the five investor-owned utilities in the state, according to utility filings. That total number was similar to where it was in March 2020. However, in March 2020, people had past due amounts totaling just over $39 million. As of June, that number had more than doubled to over $80 million. Nearly $54 million of that total came from bills that were 90 or more days past due.
As of June, the five energy companies had the following number of customers with past due bills:
- Avista had 36,973
- Cascade Natural Gas had 16,051
- Northwest Natural Gas had 12,300
- Pacific Power had 24,110
- Puget Sound Energy had 191,925
“As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to remember that many individuals and families are struggling financially,” Ferguson said. “Washingtonians need to know there is assistance if they are past due on paying for their utilities. No one should be facing utility cutoffs. My office will continue standing up for Washington ratepayers.”
What to do
If you are past due on your energy or water bills or facing shutoff after Sept. 30:
- Call your energy and water provider to ask what program will work best for your situation
- Families and individuals at 200% of the Federal Poverty Level can receive $2,500 per year for bill assistance
- Utilities must waive late fees through March 29, 2022
- Providers cannot shut off services to anyone seeking assistance with their gas or power bill. The state utility commission can impose penalties on companies who violate that law.
The Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission (WUTC) earlier this year ordered state energy utilities — Avista, Cascade Natural Gas, Northwest Natural Gas, PacifiCorp and Puget Sound Energy — to create temporary COVID-19 bill relief programs. This resulted in more than $40 million in new assistance funds available to energy customers.
State agency contacts
Washingtonians can learn more about the assistance available and what to do if they are past due and facing shutoff by contacting the WUTC by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the WUTC hotline at 1-888-333-WUTC (9882). To learn more, visit www.utc.wa.gov/CovidHelp.
Customers can also contact the Public Counsel Unit of the Attorney General’s Office to learn more about the assistance programs by calling (206) 464-7744 or emailing email@example.com.
The Public Counsel Unit represents residential and small business customers of state regulated electric, natural gas, water, and telecommunications companies and customers of transportation companies regulated by the UTC. Public Counsel advocates on behalf of customers before the UTC and courts regarding rates, mergers, business practices, service quality, energy efficiency, safety and policy matters.
There are versions of this press release in Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.