Utilities can now disconnect thousands of delinquent customersRoughly 76,000 people in Wisconsin may find themselves without heat or electricity soon. Wisconsin’s emergency winter period has just ended, meaning utility companies can now disconnect customers who are far behind on paying their bills.
By: Brian Bull, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Roughly 76,000 people in Wisconsin may find themselves without heat or electricity soon. Wisconsin’s emergency winter period has just ended, meaning utility companies can now disconnect customers who are far behind on paying their bills.
Last Friday was the end of the state’s emergency winter period. Now very delinquent utility customers have to pay their bills or risk disconnection.
Alliant Energy serves roughly 30 counties across southern Wisconsin. Spokesman Steve Schultz says there are nearly 26,000 customers who are 90 days behind on paying their bills, and are at most risk of being disconnected. He says those 26,000 customers owe a combined $8.5-million.
Meanwhile, WE Energies has about 30,000 customers in southeastern Wisconsin and the Fox Valley area, who may get shut off soon. WE spokesman Brian Manthey says there are several factors in determining which customers get disconnected first, including the last time a payment was made, and what the balance is.
“So if you have a relatively high balance and if you haven’t paid in a while…let’s say you haven’t paid since last November…most likely you’re going to be one of first ones disconnected.”
Wisconsin Public Service serves much of the north central and northeastern parts of the state. They have about 20,000 customers who are four months or more behind on payments, and are at high risk of being disconnected. WPS spokesman Kerry Spees says the average dollar amount for those customers in arrears is about $260.
“But there’s a very wide range,” adds Spees. “We have bills that are substantially higher than that, and of course those people are going to be the ones will be most seriously looked at with disconnection notices, and it’ll be more difficult for them to make arrangements, I’m certain.”
People struggling to pay their utility bills are urged to work out payment plans with their provider, or to look into home energy assistance funds with their nearest county agency.