Texans who can't pay bills can soon be disconnected from utility services again

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Electric, water and sewer service disconnection notices for customers with unpaid bills will start being issued again next week, the Public Utility Commission of Texas decided Friday.

The last day for the moratorium on disconnections will be June 18. It was originally put in place Feb. 21 following the winter storm and applied to electricity, water and sewer customers served by investor-owned utilities in the state under PUC’s jurisdiction. A similar halt to disconnections was put in place last year amid the pandemic.

The orders don’t apply to entities such as municipally-owned utilities and electric cooperatives that are not within the PUC’s jurisdiction.

The PUC said ample financial support for customers struggling to pay bills and the increasing need for utility providers to go back to normal operations led it to ending the moratorium.

This means starting June 19, retail electric and water/sewer utilities providers must issue new disconnection warning notices to customers whose past due accounts put them at risk of termination from the service.

Notices trigger a 10-day grace period that allows customers to arrange payment options. That means disconnections will officially resume June 29.

The PUC gave a list of options to help customers struggling with utility bills:

  • Payment assistance programs offered by some Retail Electric Providers (REPs)
  • Programs offered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for customers whether they rent (the Texas Rent Relief program) or own (Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program) their residence.
  • Community assistance agencies nearby. (note: many agencies require a disconnection notice for a customer to receive priority assistance)
  • Contacting 211 Texas online or by phone to discuss other options

The PUC advised customers who need more time to pay their bills to reach out to their providers and discuss deferred payment plans.

Additionally, they said customers who think they are not being treated in line with PUC rules can call the PUC’s Customer Protection Division at (888) 782-8477 or email Customer@PUC.Texas.Gov.

Learn more about the moratorium ending online here.

KXAN Austin