Public Emergency Extension. Eviction & Utility Moratorium

On Tuesday, July 13, the DC Council voted to lift the public health emergency but put in place a public emergency which expires on October 8. The public emergency is in place solely for the district to receive Federal funds from FEMA.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?

DC Water, Washington Gas, Pepco and Verizon may begin shutting off services on October 12.

HOW DO I PREVENT MY SERVICES FROM BEING SHUTOFF?

  • The utility companies shall not disconnect, suspend, or degrade service for an additional 60 days if a consumer owes less than $600
  • Has an application pending approval or under appeal for any form of financial assistance including the STAY DC, LIHEAP, UDP, CAP, Lifeline, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, SNAP, TANF or rental assistance, from the city’s rent relief program.
  • The utility company is required to restore service to a customer when the customer makes a payment of at least $10, provided that the customer enters a payment plan.

HOW DO I QUALITY FOR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE?

  • The Mayor will certify that an individual qualifies for financial assistance.
  • By September 13, 2021, the Mayor shall provide notice to each individual certified as qualified for utility disconnection relief.
  • By September 27, 2021, and every 4 weeks thereafter until January 1, 2022, the Mayor shall provide companies with a list of each individual certified as qualified for utility disconnection relief, including the individual’s home address.
  • OPC introduced and passed an amendment which would also require the Mayor to provide the list of qualified customers to OPC.
  • The list shall be property of the district and shall only be used to determine that an individual on the list is qualified for relief from utility disconnection and communicate that to affected households and companies as needed.  

REQUIRED NOTIFICATIONS

  • On or before October 12, 2021, a company shall provide notice to customers with a bill past due.
  • A company shall provide notice to a customer regarding their account at least 60 days in advance of disconnecting, suspending, or degrading service, inclusive of disconnection.
  • Notices shall be mailed to the customer in hard copy and the phrase “PAST DUE” shall be clearly printed on the bill or envelope.
  • Notices shall be issued in at least English and Spanish.

INFORMATION INCLUDED IN NOTICE

  • The availability of payment assistance programs.
  • Information on eligibility for payment assistance programs and the process to apply to each payment assistance program.
  • The right of customers to remain eligible for relief from disconnection, suspension, or degradation of service, provided that they are eligible for relief.
  • A customer’s right to contact OPC for assistance with negotiating a payment plan on the customer’s behalf.

When a company and customer have been unable to agree on terms of a payment plan within 24 hours of the customer’s request to enter into a payment plan, the company shall provide notice to the customer that the customer may contact OPC to negotiate a payment plan on the customer’s behalf.

OPC shall be authorized to negotiate a payment plan on behalf of a customer. Within 48 hours of receiving a request OPC shall provide notice to the utility provider of the customer’s request.

Beginning November 1, 2021, and ending on February 1, 2022, each utility company that is regulated by the PSC shall report monthly to the PSC and to OPC the number of customers, by zip code, that have entered payment plans, that have had service suspended or disconnected for non-payment, or that are in arrears.

Beginning on November 1, 2021, and ending on February 1, 2022, DC Water shall report monthly to the DC Water Board of Directors of DC Water and to OPC the number of customers, by zip code and customer class, that have entered payment plans, that have had service suspended or disconnected for non-payment, or that are in arrears.

RESTORING SERVICES

  • For a period of 90 days beginning on October 12, 2021, a company shall restore service to a customer when the customer makes a payment to the company of at least $10, provided that the customer enters into a payment plan.
  • When a customer whose service has been disconnected, suspended, or degraded for nonpayment is certified by the mayor or documented by the customer to be eligible for utility disconnection relief, a company shall reconnect the customer without charge.
  • A company shall reconnect a customer within 24 hours of receiving notice that the customer is qualified for utility disconnection relief.
  • A telecommunications service provider shall not disconnect, suspend, or degrade basic telecommunications service to a customer that is participating in the federal Lifeline program for non-payment of a bill, any fees for service or equipment, or other charges, or for noncompliance with a deferred payment agreement.

RULES & REGULATIONS

The legislation allows the Public Service Commission and DC Water Board to issue regulations regarding customer engagement criteria and customer notice requirements consistent with the law.

OPC’s Obligations:

OPC shall be authorized to negotiate a payment plan on behalf of a customer. Within 48 hours of receiving a request OPC shall provide notice to the utility provider of the customer’s request.