This press release came out on March 27th, 2019 form the Pennsylvania Utility Commission. This press release urged customers to seek out any financial assistance programs to make their bills affordable whether it be due to COVID-19 or some other financial burden. They then offer the following tips for financially stressed households
Contact your utilities to discuss the details and qualifications for their customer assistance programs (CAPs), especially if there have been recent changes in household income – even if you did not qualify for CAP in the past, you may now be eligible.
Customers currently on CAPs who have experienced further reductions in household income should check with their utilities to determine if they qualify for additional assistance or more favorable financial options.
Discuss your financial situation with your utilities before bills become delinquent to explore other possible options – this could include extended payment plans, budget billing, utility hardship funds and/or assistance through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and federal Lifeline program (telecommunications and broadband access funding support to eligible low income individuals or households).
They then state that they have already taken steps to pause payment-related utility terminations, linking to a March 13th press release. They state that they still acknowledge the value of monthly utility payments as they go towards supporting organizations that we all depend on. They then explain that while utilities are working hard to address the needs of their customers, they must hear directly from struggling families first. These conversations can help these utilities direct their customers towards the assistance programs that will help them the most. The PUC also acknowledges that any payments due prior to their efforts are still due, stating "
Although the PUC has temporarily paused payment-related utility terminations, it is important for consumers to understand that any past due bills or delinquent balances that remain after the current public health emergency has passed will be handled according to the rules of the individual utilities and consistent with Commission policy." They also instruct any customers of non-PUC regulated utilities to work with them, as these utilities have also put forth effort to help their customers through these troubling times. They also allude towards the Keep America Connected Initiative which aims to keep telephone and broadband lines up during these times as well.
The next part of the press release urges customers to reduce their power consumption, stating "The PUC encourages families to explore energy conservation to help manage bills – especially as more people are working remotely and spending their entire day at home. This can have a notable impact on your energy usage. The PUC has interactive information and tips for saving energy on its energy shopping websites – PAPowerSwitch.com and PAGasSwitch.com." They end the press release by urging those who want to help to support and donate to local relief funds including the Dollar Energy Fund.