SCC grants Northam’s request to extend utility shutoff moratorium

Gov. Ralph Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond.
Gov. Ralph Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond.(VPM)
Updated: Sep. 15, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The State Corporation Commission has granted Gov. Ralph Northam’s request to extend the moratorium of utility service disconnections through Oct. 5.

The extension comes after Northam wrote a letter to the SCC asking for the extension since the moratorium was supposed to end on Sept. 16.

“I appreciate the Commission’s previous extension of this order and the effect it has had in protecting public health throughout the Commonwealth during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Northam wrote.

“My request for an extension will give the General Assembly the time they need to address this issue, finalize their budget, and complete their important work during this special session,” the letter said.

After granting another extension, the SCC said it will not extend it past Oct. 5 and urges the General Assembly “appropriate funds for direct financial assistance to those customers who are unable to pay their bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Since we first imposed the moratorium on March 16, 2020, we have warned repeatedly that this moratorium is not sustainable indefinitely. The mounting costs of unpaid bills must eventually be paid, either by the customers in arrears or by other customers who themselves may be struggling to pay their bills. Unless the General Assembly explicitly directs that a utility’s own shareholders must bear the cost of unpaid bills, those costs will almost certainly be shifted to other paying customers,” the SCC said.

On Aug. 18, Northam introduced a budget to the General Assembly he says addressed the moratorium, repayment plan structure and a debt forgiveness program.

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