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I-Team: COVID moratoriums on utility bills, services winding down

I-Team

EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU-TV) —The clock is winding down on some COVID-19 related measures put into place last year to help people pay their utility bills.

They were designed to assist people hit financially because of the pandemic. Those measures include things like deferring late fees and preventing the termination of services, but now it’s uncertain if those measures will still be in place when March ends. So, utilities like UGI are urging people who may be facing challenges to reach out to them to discuss their situation.

“Some of those supplemental COVID programs may expire at the end of March. The Commission is considering how to move forward after the end of March but those decisions have not been made,” said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, press secretary PA Public Utility Commission.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the PUC, which regulates all utilities in the commonwealth is overseeing those COVID-19 programs which include deferment of late fees.

Offering payment plans to customers and limiting or restricting termination of services, the I-Team spoke with Hagen-Frederiksen, who says the time is now to take action.

“So what we’re encouraging consumers to do is to reach out to utilities. Your utility doesn’t know your specific financial situation, but this is an excellent time to have that conversation. Right now there are the greatest number of possible assistance programs available,” Hagen-Frederiksen said.

“UGI has been very proactive in working with customer,” said Joseph Swope, manager of media relation at UGI.

UGI Utilities provides services for people all across the region. A company spokesperson says they can’t help customers, if they aren’t aware they need help.

“So the most important thing that any customer can do who’s having trouble paying their utility bill is contact us. We understand that there have been a number of customers who have been financially impacted significantly by COVID pandemic. We have been very proactive working with customers. But we can’t help customers if they don’t reach out to us,” said Swope.

Pat Ward is the president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Hazleton. His agency often works as a go-between with people who are in financial trouble.

“And the advice we always give to people if you are falling in arrears in any of your utility bills for any reason, obviously COVID is a real mitigating factor for you being behind on our bills, explain your situation because they will set you up with reduced payment program,” said Ward.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) advises residents who may have issues with any utility payments to reach out to that respective utility to discuss the matter.

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