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08/12/2020 05:46 AM
Pennsylvania State Senate
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20190&cosponId=32021
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: June 23, 2020 04:59 PM
From: Senator Thomas H. Killion
To: All Senate members
Subject: Utility Security for Seniors, Families and Small Businesses Act
 
During the COVID-19 pandemic and its related economic disruptions, temporary protections put in place for utility customers have played a critical role in maintaining community and economic stability throughout the Commonwealth.
 
At the onset of the pandemic, utilities and the PA PUC immediately took steps to assist Pennsylvanians facing hardship from the COVID pandemic and business shutdowns by suspending disconnections and late fees and reconnecting customers who had previously been disconnected.  These restrictions remain in place as Pennsylvania has moved through the reopening process.
 
Since the moratorium was established, the majority of customers have continued to pay their monthly bills, but a significant number of residential, small commercial and larger customer have suspended payments.  Many of these customers have lost their sources of income as a result of the pandemic and its associated business shutdowns.  Unpaid utility bills resulting from these closures will contribute to business closures and residential shut-offs, with much of these costs ultimately shifted to other customers as uncollectible expense.
 
I believe it will be important to provide our constituents with expanded utility bill payment assistance as our economy recovers and transitions back to a more normal situation.  To help avoid substantial economic disruptions for the communities we serve, we can combine flexible funds available under the Federal CARES Act with utility customer assistance programs.  This will help ensure that temporary economic dislocations resulting from the pandemic shutdowns don’t permanently leave businesses shuttered and homes abandoned.
 
Specifically, my legislation proposes to use flexible funds available under the Federal CARES Act to assist customers who were economically displaced as a result of the pandemic to:
 
  • Provide additional utility assistance to low-income customers eligible for LIHEAP;
  • Increase program flexibility to ensure that those who previously did not meet income eligibility guidelines but lost their income as a result of the pandemic can access funds under LIHEAP or through other state assistance programs; and
  • Establish a mechanism to provide small businesses that have had their operations interrupted as a result of the pandemic with financial assistance to pay back utility bills and stay current on their bills in the coming months as the economy recovers.
 
We have an opportunity to produce a win-win outcome for our constituents – those who have lost all or part of their income and those who would otherwise see increased bills as a result of increased utility bad debt – while promoting community stability. 
 
Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.