- Department of Public Utilities
- Electric Power Division
- Gas Division
- Consumer Division
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Extends Utility Shutoff Moratorium
Craig Gilvarg, Press Secretary
Boston — In an effort to protect Massachusetts ratepayers struggling with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) today issued an Order extending the moratorium on residential gas, electric, and water utility shutoffs to July 1, 2021. The moratorium, previously scheduled to end in April, will deliver temporary financial relief for ratepayers while providing additional time for ratepayers to coordinate a payment plan with a utility company and explore the availability of financial assistance programs.
“The Baker-Polito Administration continues to take important steps to ensure continued reliable gas and electric service while protecting residents that are struggling with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson. “While this Order will guarantee Massachusetts residents and families who are facing financial hardships due to the pandemic will have uninterrupted gas, electric, and water utility service, we urge residents experiencing financial hardship to be aware of protections and to contact their utility company for assistance.”
The DPU Order prohibits investor-owned utility companies from shutting off gas, electric, and water utility service to residential customers for failure to pay a bill or a portion of a bill until July 1, 2021. Additionally, companies can begin communicating with ratepayers regarding bills in arrears; however, the communication must inform the ratepayer that residential shutoffs for nonpayment will not occur until July 1, 2021 or after, and also provide a list of all repayment programs and debt-forgiveness options available to the ratepayer.
Throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Baker-Polito Administration has taken numerous steps to protect ratepayers and ensure reliable utility service. On March 24, 2020, the DPU issued an Order temporarily prohibiting investor-owned utility companies from shutting off gas, electric, and water utility service to any customers for failure to pay a bill or a portion of a bill. In May, the DPU established a Customer Assistance and Ratemaking Working Group, composed of consumer advocate groups, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Energy Resources, and utility companies, to report on recommendations for moratorium continuation and customer assistance policies.
In August, the DPU issued an Order adopting the Working Group’s recommendations for ending the shutoff moratorium and instituting important new ratepayer protection provisions, including:
- Utility companies cannot assess late fees or discontinue service to customers enrolled in a payment plan.
- To ensure customers have notice of any potential shutoff, companies are required, in advance of any potential shutoff, to issue notices to customers that inform customers about the payments due, the availability of payment plans, and the potential for shutoffs.
- Companies must continue waiving late payment fees for small Commercial & Industrial customers for six months following the date that Governor Baker lifts the State of Emergency.
- Companies are required to waive any previously required “good faith payments” in circumstances where a customer re-enrolls in an arrearage management plan (AMP) after breaking from a prior AMP.
Residential customers experiencing financial hardship may also be eligible for additional assistance, such as financial assistance programs, if they self-certify to their utility company that there is a seriously ill individual living in the household, a child in the household under 12 months of age in the household, or that all adults in the home are age 65 or older and a minor child resides in the home. Customers should contact their utility company for more information on enrolling in a payment plan, declaring financial hardship or qualifying for financial assistance. For more resources for Massachusetts residents and businesses experiencing financial hardship paying their electric, gas, or water utility bills because of COVID-19, please visit the DPU website.