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With moratorium on utility shut-offs ending soon, Washington officials urge customers to make a plan

Aug. 31, 2021 Updated Tue., Aug. 31, 2021 at 7:42 p.m.

By Joseph O’Sullivan Seattle Times

OLYMPIA – Washington officials are urging people who are behind on water and energy bills to check in with their utility companies before the state’s temporary moratorium on service shut-offs ends next month.

The moratorium has been in place since April 2020, when Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a halt to disconnections as the state restricted commerce and social activities to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The moratorium on disconnections for electricity, water and natural gas services is scheduled to end Sept. 30, which is also the same day a temporary ban on evictions for unpaid rent in Washington is set to lift.

More than 500,000 state residents are estimated to have overdue utility bills from during the moratorium, according to a news release by the state Department of Commerce. That includes more than 280,000 customers of privately owned utilities – such as Puget Sound Energy – with overdue bills

As the moratorium lifts, utility companies are “eager and ready to help their customers make a plan that keeps their services on,” Inslee said in the news release.

“I urge people make that call as soon as they can,” the governor added in prepared remarks. “That call can give a family one less thing to worry about as fall and winter approaches.”

Privately owned energy and water utilities are regulated by the state and are required to offer payment plans, according to the news release. They are also not allowed to charge for late fees or deposits until April 2022.

Puget Sound Energy President and CEO Mary Kipp said in the news release that the company committed during the pandemic to customers not losing their services.

“We stand by that as the pandemic continues to impact customers more than a year later with a level of assistance that is unprecedented and which can make a significant difference for our customers,” Kipp added in prepared remarks.

Customers can also seek financial assistance from utilities themselves, or help from federal government programs.

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