Help Paying Utilities

 

 

 

Maryland laws that prevent utility service disconnections

A regulation put in place by the state of Maryland prevents utility service shutoffs due to unpaid or overdue utility bills when extreme heat or cold is forecast. This new law comes as a relief to the low income, unemployed, seniors, and others who have lobbied for the change in laws due to concerns about the safety and health of young children, seniors, the chronically ill, and low income when the heat rises or a cold winter stretch occurs.

The new rules state that utilities must now consider the three-day forecast before they shut off the power or disconnect utilities. If the temperature is expected to exceed 95 degrees for 24 of the next 72 hours, then they can’t terminate the service. Also, the new laws and regulations will also bar utility service terminations when the temperature is forecast to fall below 32 degrees in a 72-hour period during the winter months.

Another rule that is in in place states that utility service terminations are suspended for 55 days when people apply for federal government energy assistance programs, but sometimes that processing period can take even longer so utilities can’t be disconnected while that is ongoing. Also, the additional time can protect families and individuals if the weather is forecast to get severe over a weekend or holiday, when staffing to restore utility or gas service may be limited.

Maryland has also created additional restrictions and regulations that prevent shutoffs during the cold winter months. For example, from Nov. 1 through March 31, BGE must make two attempts to contact customers who are behind on their bills and provide them with utility bill assistance information, as well as provide an affidavit stating that terminations of their service during the winter will not threaten the life of a customer.

 

 

 

 

 

No one, including gas and utility companies, want the customers heat shut off, or the air-conditioning, on a day when the temperature is so extreme in the hot or the cold that life or health of the customer is in jeopardy.

Since around the June timeframe, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. has suspended residential shutoffs on 13 days due to the extreme hot temperatures in the area, according to company spokeswoman Foy. To put that into perspective, on a typical day, the company shuts off power to about 300 residential customers throughout the year.

The spokesperson also said that Baltimore Gas and Electric Co (BGE) encourages all customers who are struggling to pay a utility bill to ask for help, and they need to contact customer service representative before they receive a termination notice. The sooner they ask for help paying utility bills, the more options that are available.

Some of the options for customers include they may be able to work out a payment plan with the energy company, depending on their payment history, their total outstanding balance and their ability to pay for their utility bill.

 

 

 

 

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