The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and Department of Commerce have teamed up to encourage consumers with past-due electric and gas utility bills to apply for programs that can help them avoid having their utility service disconnected. Currently, there are roughly 360,000 household served by regulated utilities that have past-due utility bills, with approximately $135 million in unpaid bills.
Beginning in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic peacetime emergency began, the PUC adopted measures to ensure Minnesotans would not lose access to their power while they were being asked to stay home, by suspending utility disconnections for consumers with unpaid bills. After reviewing consumer data and with recent changes in the peacetime emergency pandemic response guidance, the PUC has determined that utilities can resume normal service beginning August 2, 2021 – including utility disconnections for consumers with outstanding bills. As a result, consumers may start to receive disconnection notices as early as June 1, 2021.
Utility consumers should act as soon as possible to avoid being disconnected, using the following options:
Apply for the Energy Assistance Program
Consumers who have applied (even if it is pending) or who have been approved for the Energy Assistance Program will be protected from having their utilities disconnected for one year through April 30, 2022. Households with incomes below 60% of the state’s median income (roughly $65,000 in annual income for a household of four, or $33,918 annually for a household of 1) may be eligible for the program. Only the past three months of income are counted, and recent stimulus payments or pandemic unemployment insurance premiums are not counted.
Minnesotans can apply online at mn.gov/commerce/eap.jsp, or by phone at 800-657-3710 (press 1).
Request to set up a plan to repay the utility company
Consumers with past-due bills can call their utility directly and request to set up a payment plan for any outstanding balances. Regulated utilities will not charge late fees or penalties for consumers who have entered and are complying with their plan for payment.
For additional help, the PUC Consumer Affairs Office (CAO) is available to answer questions and to provide consumer mediation services. Ratepayers can contact the CAO at 651-296-0406 or 1-800-657-3782, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.