Emergency rules will make it easier for those facing utility shutoffs to restore service this winter…
The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today approved emergency rules for utility restoration at the request of the George Wiley Center. According to the Center, “[t]housands of Rhode Islanders have been shut off and cannot afford high down payments to get service restored.”
National Grid and the PUC, said the Center, “often do not offer people affordable down payments to get utility service turned back on, demanding instead that consumers pay high amounts that are unrealistic for people living on fixed incomes.”
The George Wiley Center requested, and was granted, the entirety of their request, including:
- Remove barriers for people facing extended economic insecurity. In recent years, the Commission has added language to only allow affordable down payments for those whose outstanding balance is lower than in previous years. This essentially penalizes longer-term poverty, and at the same time puts an undue stress on the LIHEAP grant system.
- 10 percent down payment on outstanding balances, to allow for affordable and realistic payments for utility restoration. In previous years, the Commission has approved a tiered system requiring higher down payments depending on the balance due. We encourage affordable 10 percent down payments to make utility restoration possible and to help stretch federal LIHEAP funds for more people.
- Offer these regulations to all Rhode Islanders, both protected and standard customers. In past years, language has been added to narrow which customers are eligible. There are many households who don’t qualify for LIHEAP, who are nonetheless facing tough economic times. We urge that restoration opportunities be offered to all consumers who are currently without service due to unaffordable utility bills.
- Immediate implementation of the Emergency Regulations, to last through the end of the year, and preferably longer, all winter long.
This has been a standard practice for many years, where the George Wiley Center petitions the PUC to make it easier for people to restore services, and the PUC accommodates the request. This is my fifth annual story covering this process:
- 2018: Public Utility Commission delivers some relief for customers who have had their utilities shut off
- 2017: PUC approves affordable utility restoration
- 2016: RIPUC applies band-aid to utility shut-off problem
- 2015: RIPUC adopts emergency regulations to help shut-off victims
People facing utility shut-offs should contact the George Wiley Center if they need help in working with National Grid to restore services.
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