Utilities halt disconnections during coronavirus crisis

Three of Vermont’s largest electric utilities, and its sole natural gas utility, will stop disconnections through the end of April, citing potential financial hardships customers may face from the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Green Mountain Power, which provides electricity to approximately 266,000 customers, announced Sunday evening that it would be “suspending collections activities” through April 30. The utility will halt disconnects and stop sending past due customers to collection during this time.

GMT suspending collections in COVID-19

“We hope to alleviate our affected customers’ concerns about their electricity service during this time,” GMP stated on its website, noting some customers may see financial impacts if they fall ill, are required to quarantine, or from other impacts of COVID-19.

Officials with Vermont Gas and Vermont Electric Cooperative also said Monday they would not be disconnecting customers through the end of April. VEC, a rural co-op with 32,000 members across the northern tier of the state, will halt on-site collection of past due bills. Vermont Gas will not send customers to collection during this time.

All of the utilities will continue to bill customers as normal.

Mayor Miro Weinberger announced at a town hall meeting Monday afternoon that Burlington Electric Department would also stop disconnecting customers.

Comcast announced it would not impose late fees or disconnect customers who call and say they can’t pay their bills. The cable/internet service provider also said it would provide unlimited data to all customers and Wi-Fi hotspots would also be free.

“During this extraordinary time, it is vital that as many Americans as possible stay connected to the internet – for education, work, and personal health reasons,” said Dave Watson, Comcast Cable chief executive officer. “Our employees also live and work in virtually every community we serve, and we all share the same belief that it’s our company’s responsibility to step up and help out.”