LACEY, Wash. – State regulators added protections for water utility customers experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic. This comes following an update to Gov. Inslee’s statewide ratepayer assistance proclamation.
The commission ordered private water companies in Washington to continue a moratorium on disconnections for nonpayment until Sept. 30, 2021. Utilities will continue to waive deposits for new customers and all late fees through March 29, 2022.
Customers struggling to pay their utility bills should contact their utilities today to ask about their options, which include assistance funds, long-term payment plans, and budget billing.
The federal Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) has grants available to assist with bills. Customers are eligible for these funds if they earn no more than 150% of the Federal Poverty Level, and individual customers can receive up to $2,500 per year in additional bill assistance. Even if a customer has already received help, or doesn’t think they qualify, they should still call their utility today. They can also visit www.utc.wa.gov/CovidHelp to learn more.
UTC staff are also available to assist customers who need help working with their utilities and are available at 888-333-WUTC (9882) or via chat during regular business hours at www.utc.wa.gov.
- In April 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation banning energy, water, and telecommunication companies from disconnecting customers due to nonpayment, refusing to reconnect residential customers who were disconnected for nonpayment, and charging late fees or reconnection fees.
- Last year, the UTC organized a COVID-19 response workgroup of stakeholders to facilitate development of guidelines to make sure that customers experiencing economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic maintain access to essential services after the proclamation expires. At the time, telecommunications and water companies were not required to participate.
- As a result of this stakeholder work, the UTC issued a disconnection moratorium and term sheet for its investor-owned energy utilities, including additional customer protections and communication guidelines.
- On July 2, 2021, Gov. Inslee issued Proclamation 20-23.16, which extended the disconnection moratorium until Sept. 30, 2021.
The UTC regulates the rates and services of the state’s investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities, landline telephone companies, and private water systems among other industries. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.
Editor’s note: All documents related to this proceeding can be found at www.utc.wa.gov in docket U-200281.