Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC) was recently lobbied by the Missouri Consumer Council to enact a statewide moratorium on utility shutdowns through the winter, but ultimately denied the request due to limitations in the commission’s statutory powers.
“The commission has carefully reviewed Consumer Council’s motion and shares its concern for the well-being of utility customers and all Missouri citizens during the pandemic,” the PSC later said in a statement. “However, the commission can only take the actions it has been authorized by the state legislature to take.”
Similar to the way the state government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission has allowed companies to enact their own customer assistance policies. Since March, the PSC has approved waivers and programs for several of the companies under its authority.
Here’s a look at some of the ways Missouri’s utilities are assisting customers during the pandemic and the winter months.
Ameren Missouri’s COVID-19 Clean Slate program, which began in June, allocated more than $4 million to assist vulnerable customers. The money has gone toward clearing the debt of eligible customers who have paid at least 25 percent of their current overdue balances.
Additionally, Ameren applied its own moratorium on disconnections through Jan. 5 in response to the Consumers Council’s request.
Spire Missouri began a COVID-19 relief program in November, allowing customers to receive a match of up to $300 in paying past-due bills. The company’s Small Business Pandemic Relief Program also offers businesses up to five $100 monthly credits to help with their bills.
Spire paused disconnections through the end of the year.
Evergy Inc. initially paused involuntary disconnections for customers from March to July of this year. In November, Evergy announced it was reinstating the moratorium through March 1, in addition to waiving late fees.
Missouri-American Water Company
Missouri-American Water Company is offering an Enhanced Installment Plan through the end of March. The program allows customers to enter a payment agreement with the company for past due balances, as long as they apply before facing a shut-off.
While the PSC denied a statewide moratorium, it encouraged utilities and customers to make use of assistance programs offered on the state and federal level.
Missouri utilities adhere to a “cold weather rule” which suspends involuntary disconnections when the temperature falls below freezing. On the federal level, low-income customers can apply for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which offers eligible customers up to $800 to go toward their bills through the winter months.