Local utility companies are continuing to waive service disconnections for non-payment and related late fees as the financial impact of COVID-19 continues to mount.
Paducah Power System, Jackson Purchase Energy Corp., Paducah Water and Atmos Energy have not been disconnecting non-paying customers since around mid-March.
Paducah Power has been reviewing the situation every two weeks since that time, and will continue that practice, General Manager Dave Carroll said.
And, more recently, Gov Andy Beshear issued an executive order prohibiting disconnections by all utilities for the duration of the state of emergency that he officially declared March 6.
“The governor doesn’t have an end date, he just said until the state of emergency is lifted,” Carroll said. “We’ll abide by that.”
JPEC has not changed its procedures since the state Public Service Commission issued its order March 16 to suspend disconnections and waive late fees, said Scott Adair, vice president, human resources and communications.
The PSC order specified the suspension of disconnects would be “for at least the next 30 days, and until further notice” from the commission.
“Until the PSC gives us guidance otherwise, that’s where we’ll be,” Adair said.
Atmos Energy, like JPEC, is regulated by the PSC.
“We came out with our protocol that we would not disconnect any of our customers prior to the PSC order,” said Kay Coomes, manager of public affairs. “So, we were ahead of the curve.”
Paducah Water Board Chairman Edward Barker said the utility also initiated the practice of suspending disconnections before the governor’s executive order.
“We did that in conjunction with Mayor (Brandi) Harless. She contacted our general manager, he talked to the board and we approved the policy a long time ago,” Barker said.
“Back when this all started, the only defense (against COVID-19) was to wash your hands. If the people that were having difficulty paying their bill couldn’t wash their hands, then how could they not get the virus? So, the board approved the policy.”
Each utility has payment options customers who may be having difficulty paying their bill can utilize. They each also refer customers who may need assistance to community action agencies such as West Kentucky Allies Services.
“It would behoove folks to call their energy provider, whoever that is, or gas or water, and pay what they can, when they can,” Adair said. “That’s definitely the best thing.”