COVID-19 Utility Bill Holds, Terminations and Payment Plans Explained
A new order from the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) prohibits utility companies from turning off residential electricity, gas or water through November 15, 2020. This order is a continuation from the initial hold on utility shut-offs that began in March when Governor Hogan declared a state of emergency due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The recent PSC order was designed to give residents who may be affected by job loss or other negative economic impact time to seek assistance in catching up on past due utility bills while mitigating the cash flow issues Maryland’s energy utilities are facing.
Residents who are struggling to afford to pay their electric or gas bills are strongly encouraged to contact their utility and discuss payment arrangements now. Do not wait for a termination notice! Apply early for utility benefits while funding is available, if you are struggling to pay. Officials with the Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP), under the Maryland Department of Human Services, testified during the most recent PSC hearing that over $170 million in assistance is available. Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) officials said that the Maryland Fuel Fund also has available financial help. To access these programs, see the listing below.
Multiple PSC hearings have been held on this topic with full participation from state officials and Maryland’s energy utilities. The need to provide essential services for residents, while protecting all ratepayers from pending past due costs being socialized is important. During the moratorium, unpaid past due balances on utility bills have doubled into hundreds of millions of dollars and it is still growing.
The new PSC order states that termination notices may resume in October. To read more about the order, see below:
- Residential customers in arrears will have 45 days from receipt of a notice to work out a payment plan with their utility or to apply for energy assistance programs. Customers who take either action would not have service disconnected.
- Utilities must offer a minimum payment plan of 12 months to anyone who asks for one (or 24 months for those customers receiving energy assistance from OHEP).
- Utilities cannot require a down payment or deposit as a condition of beginning a payment plan for any residential customer, including both current and new customers.
Access to air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter are critical for all Maryland residents. The state is working to address the needs of our utility partners while also keeping Marylanders safe. If you have questions about your payment plan or need assistance please contact your utility (list below) or the Office of Home Energy Program.
Choptank Electric Cooperative
Easton Utilities call 410-822-6110
First Energy or Allegheny Power
Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco)
Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SMECO)