The Maine Public Utilities Commission has ordered an end to its emergency moratorium on utility disconnections issued in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The ruling allows utilities to recommence normal disconnections beginning Nov. 1, the commission said Tuesday.
Regulators issued the emergency halt on disconnections for all electric transmission and distribution utilities, natural gas utilities, water utilities and telephone providers of last resort service on March 16.
“The Commission weighed the multifaceted interests of customers and utilities in making this decision,” the commission’s chair, Philip L. Bartlett II, said.
“The emergency moratorium was implemented to assist customers in the early days of the pandemic, when schools and businesses were being shuttered and people were ordered to stay at home,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett said upholding the moratorium indefinitely would prevent some utility customers from accessing funds from the federal CARES Act to help with their bills and could “drive up costs for all utility customers” in the long run.
Residential customers cannot have their electric and natural gas utilities disconnected between Nov. 1 and April 15, 2021, without the commission’s approval. Other utility disconnections can occur if they follow all applicable rules, the commission said.
Utilities are also required to offer reasonable payment arrangements, to waive new late-payment charges when a customer enters a payment arrangement and uphold the waiver as long as the customer remains in compliance, according to the commission.