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Organization urges Public Service Commission to extend utility moratorium as disconnection notices arrive

MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) - If you are behind on your utilities, you’re at risk of having your power turned off this month. The utility moratorium put in place by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin due to the pandemic will end, but an organization is urging the PSC to extend the moratorium until next spring.

The Our Wisconsin Revolution organization is urging the Public Service Commission to immediately extend the utility moratorium that ends July 25. They’re asking the moratorium be extended to April 2021.

“Losing those services now are dangerous and it could be even deadly,” said Mike McCabe, Executive Director of Our Wisconsin Revolution.

Mike McCabe says not extending the moratorium during the worsening pandemic would put a strain on low-income families and on virtual learning once school gets back in session.

”If they got kids in the home and those kids are expected then to do distanced learning because they can’t go to school, but the electricity’s been cut off—then how’s that going to work?” McCabe adds.

WE Energies, who serves more than a million customers in the greater Milwaukee area says disconnection is a last resort. They want to work with people with the upcoming deadline.

“You don’t need to pay- if you’re behind we’re not going to say ‘give us your full amount or you're at risk of disconnection,’ what we’re going to say is ‘let’s look at what options there are,’” said Brendan Conway, Spokesperson for WE Energies.  

On June 11th, the PSC of Wisconsin voted to lift the moratorium put in place in March. Even with the moratorium coming up the PSC is providing disconnection postponement for up to 42 days for people who test positive for COVID-19 and need to be quarantined.

In a statement the PSC says in part:

"Although the moratorium ends July 25, we continue to closely monitor customers' ability to access essential electric, natural gas, and water services, especially as we are now, again, seeing COVID-19 cases climb steadily across our state."

“They’re our regulators, they kind of set the tone, and we’re following that,” adds Conway.

Conway says typically a moratorium happens anyway from November through April, and WE Energies will work with customers who need help.

“We don’t want to get to a place where disconnection is an option, we want to stop that well beforehand,” Conway said.

Meanwhile, the Social Development Commission of Milwaukee County says they support McCabe’s request for a moratorium extension.

In a statement, the SCD said:

“As a commission on poverty and the largest community action agency in the state this issue has a tremendous impact on the Milwaukee County residents we serve.”

“If companies now are able to cut off their electricity and other utilities at this worst possible moment, that is just another gut punch,” added McCabe.

WE Energies says they have started to send out disconnection notices this week, but don’t want people to be alarmed by it because it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be disconnected. They ask you give them a call immediately if you do receive a notice.

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