4/3/2020 4:44:40 PM
SAINT PAUL, MN – Minnesota’s energy and gas utilities have implemented critical consumer protections to ensure that Minnesotans receive needed utility services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Chair Katie Sieben and Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley sent a joint letter on March 25 to all electric and gas utilities requesting that they implement consumer protection safeguards, specifically, expanding and extending cold weather rule protections, suspending customer shut-offs, waiving late fees, arranging payment plans, and otherwise helping their customers in these difficult circumstances. The Commission and the Department asked utilities to eFile their responses by April 3, 2020.
“Ensuring Minnesotans have utility services during the pandemic means people can safely distance themselves and keep their loved ones safe in their homes,” said PUC Commissioner Valerie Means. “I appreciate the swift response and action of our utility service providers.”
“Knowing that the lights will remain on and our homes warm, adds one needed layer of normalcy and safety during this pandemic,” said Commerce Commissioner Kelley.
In response to the letter, 99 utilities have filed responses so far – 89 municipals-COOPS and 10 investor owned utilities.
“If for some reason Minnesotans experience any service or disconnection issues with their electric or gas utility, they should reach out to the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Office as soon as possible,” said PUC Commissioner John Tuma. “Our CAO advocates are still on the job and ready to help in this crisis so that consumers are ensured the utility services they need.”
The Public Utilities Commission’s Consumer Affairs Office provides mediation services and consumer support with issues related to utility service disruptions or disconnections. Minnesotans needing information or help with their utility service provider, can contact the Consumer Affairs Office for assistance at email@example.com; or 651-296-0406 or 1-800-657-3782.
It is important for Minnesotans to know that there is still time to apply to the Energy Assistance Program (EAP) administered by the Department of Commerce. Minnesotans who are recently unemployed, households with young children, people with disabilities, veterans, and senior citizens are encouraged to apply. The program helps homeowners and renters with income at or below 50 percent of the state’s median income pay energy bills, reconnect or prevent disconnection of utilities, deliver fuel, educate Minnesotans on energy efficiency and safety, and repair or replace homeowners’ broken heating systems.
Eligibility is based on household size and income earned in the most recent full calendar month. Households can find their local service provider by calling 800-657-3710 or at the Commerce Department’s Energy Assistance Program webpage mn.gov/commerce/eap.jsp. Commerce administers the Energy Assistance Program in partnership with 29 local service providers throughout the state. EAP is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission regulates three cornerstone service industries in Minnesota's economy; electricity, natural gas and telephone. The Commission’s mission is to create and maintain a regulatory environment that ensures safe, adequate and efficient utility services at fair, reasonable rates consistent with State telecommunications and energy policies. It does so by providing independent, consistent, professional and comprehensive oversight and regulation of utility service providers. Learn more at mn.gov/puc.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce oversees more than 20 regulated industries, ensuring that Minnesota businesses are strong and Minnesota consumers are protected. Our mission is to protect the public interest, advocate for Minnesota consumers, ensure a strong, competitive and fair marketplace, strengthen the state’s economic future and serve as a trusted public resource for consumers and businesses. Learn more at mn.gov/commerce.