Some in western Kentucky will be faced with the prospect of paying their utility bill again or having their utility cutoff when the Kentucky Public Service Commission lifts its moratorium on utility disconnections starting Oct. 20.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission will lift its moratorium on utility services including gas, power, and water. This moratorium, issued in response to economic difficulties due to COVID-19, provided protections to household utilities since mid-March. The Commission requires all utility companies to create plans for consumers to pay past-due balances, but if they fall behind on payments, utilities can disconnect services, according to the order.
In a previous survey of utilities, the commission noted Kentucky consumers needed at least $75 million to keep their services running. The Murray Ledger & Times reported in early October over 500 citizens within Murray city limits alone were behind on utility payments, totaling to nearly $200,000 in lost revenue. West Kentucky Rural Electric spokesperson Georgann Lookofsky said about 3% of the company’s roughly 38,000 customers have an outstanding balance of more than thirty days.
Lookofsky said despite the moratorium ending, the company is dedicated to helping consumers.The cooperative serves parts of Carlisle, Marshall, Graves, Hickman, and Calloway counties.
“The biggest impact of the moratorium has been that those members who were struggling financially, some of them were able to take a much needed break in utility payments,” she said. “Now that we are moving that towards ending disconnects, that’s going to give us an opportunity to get those people back on a payment plan and back on their feet.”
West Kentucky Rural Electric does not plan to start disconnecting services until the week of Oct. 27.
At another western Kentucky utility, Jackson Purchase Energy Spokesperson Scott Adair said service would not change even after the moratorium lifts. Although no numbers were provided, Adair said the cooperative hopes to recover some of the lost revenue.
“If bills are not paid, that impacts our ability to provide a safe and reliable service that our consumer members are used to,” he said. “The economic health of Jackson Purchase as a cooperative is directly tied to the economic health of our communities.”
Jackson Purchase Energy serves parts of Graves, Carlisle, Ballard, McCracken, Marshall, and Livingston counties.