“The move was brought on by a combination of factors: the pandemic, the arrival of much colder weather as we reach the winter months, and a new billing platform we plan to roll out in January,” Evergy spokesman Andrew Baker told The Missouri Times. “With all those things combined, it was time to pause disconnections again through next year. That being said, we do have options and programs available for customers to help with funding.”
Evergy waived disconnections and late fees through the beginning of March 2021 last month, urging customers to consider its resources for low-income individuals, such as the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Customer Affairs Advisor Maria Lopez said the program offered eligible customers the chance to receive assistance with bills as the pandemic and winter season progress.
“It’s there to help these low-income households meet that immediate energy need by providing assistance either toward their gas or electric service,” she said. “There are two parts to this program: One is the initial energy assistance, which is a lump sum granted once the customer is approved to go toward their primary heating source, usually gas. The second part is Winter Crisis Funding — that part is for customers who would normally be in danger of being disconnected.”
Lopez said the Winter Crisis Fund allowed customers up to $800 in credits to go toward their bills through the winter months, with the Initial Energy Assistance program providing the same amount. Customers did not have to be past-due on bills or in danger of disconnections to apply for the LIHEAP program, Lopez said.
“We want people to know about these programs, that there’s money available to help,” she continued. “Since we’re currently in this disconnect moratorium, we don’t want customers to forget about their utility bills. The usage is still there, they’re still going to get billed monthly, so if they’re able to get assistance through this program, that’s something we try to encourage.”
Evergy’s initial moratorium on disconnections ran from March through July. The company waived late fees and offered credits to assist low-income customers during that period as well. According to Baker, more than 100,000 have benefited from Evergy’s programs this year.
The Consumers Council of Missouri asked the Public Service Commission (PSC) to enact a moratorium on involuntary disconnections last week. Other Missouri utilities have been approved to enact similar policies this year.