​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Utility  COVID-19 Resources ​

We’re here to help utility staff address challenges associated with the declared public health emergency for COVID-19. Below are some FAQs intended to connect utility staff with information and resources they need during this period. 

  
Q: Who should I call to get information or ask questions about PSC rules and customer issues?

A: Please contact our Utility Inquiry Line: PSCConsumerAffairsMail@wisconsin.gov, or 608-266-3766. 



Q: I heard the Governor issued an emergency order suspending certain service rules and providing consumer protections. What does that order say?

A: ​See https://evers.wi.gov/Documents/COVID19/EMO11-PSCRuleSuspensions.pdf for Governor Evers’ Emergency Order #11.



Q: What does Emergency Order #11 mean for utilities?

A: The Commission opened two dockets related to Emergency Order #11. The dockets provide implementation instructions and direction to utility staff and stakeholders and offer the opportunity to provide comments:

  • 5-UI-120: Investigation on the Commission’s Own Motion to Ensure Safe, Reliable and Affordable Access to Utility Services During Declared Public Health Emergency for COVID-19. The Commission Order in this docket included customer service provisions relating to disconnection, application for service, deferred payment agreements, late fees, and cash deposit requirements. It is important to note these provisions apply to all utility service types and all customer classes, not just the residential class. The comment period for this docket is open until April 10, 2020.

  • 5-AF-105: Accounting Treatment for Utility Costs Incurred Due To and During Declared Public Health Emergency for COVID-19). The comment period for this docket is open until April 3, 2020.
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Q: Where can I find additional information about these dockets?
  
A. You can subscribe to the dockets on the Commission’s homepage:https://psc.wi.gov/Pages/Home.aspx and clicking on the “e-Subscribe” icon at the bottom of the homepage, then follow the instructions on the ERF-EZ Subscription box. To see all documents filed in the dockets, go to the Commission’s E Services Portal, and type in the docket number. If you are interested in filing comments on a docket, please see the Notice of Investigation for that docket. 


 
Q: If a utility does not currently offer credit card payment as a payment option, what are the steps it needs to take with the PSC in order to start offering this as an additional payment option? Once a utility offers credit card payments, are the transaction fees for customers waived?
  
A. The utility does not need any special permission from the Commission to offer a credit card payment option if it would like to do so. 

 
If the utility starts to offer credit card payments as an option and would like to waive the transaction fees for customers, the utility must make a request through the PSC’s Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system, pursuant to the steps outlined below. PSC authorization is required for the utility to pay the individual transaction fees for its customers. Utilities may request to have these fees waived on a temporary basis during the COVID-19 emergency; otherwise, the utility should make its request as part of a rate case filing.
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Q: How should the utility contact the Commission to request to opt-in to waiving credit card fees for its customers?
  
A. The utility should file its request on the PSC’s Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system. Please upload an application letter to ERF under your Utility ID [XXXX] requesting the tariff change. 

  • If your utility has more than one service type, you must file a separate application letter for each service type. The name of the ERF submission should be:

    • “Request for Temporary Service Rules Waiving Credit Card Fees in Response to COVID-19 – Water”
    • “Request for Temporary Service Rules Waiving Credit Card Fees in Response to COVID-19 – Electric” ​
    • “Request for Temporary Service Rules Waiving Credit Card Fees in Response to COVID-19 – Gas” ​

  • ​ The application letter must include the preferred effective date, and if your utility has more than one service type (ie. water and electric), the letter must indicate which service type the request pertains to. 

  • ​ By default, the waiver will be effective as of 3/24/20. If the utility prefers a later effective date, please include the preferred date in the letter.
Once PSC Records Management accepts the request, Commission staff will open a tariff amendment docket by service type (TE, TG, or TW). Please Note: If your utility has more than one service type, the Commission will open a new, separate docket for each service type. You will receive a response from the Commission for each docket. The response will include the utility’s new, temporary service rule language authorizing the utility to waive the credit card fees. Please contact our Utility Inquiry Line: PSCRecordsMail@wisconsin.gov or 608-266-3766 for help with this process.


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Q: What are we supposed to do if a customer defaults on a deferred payment agreement (DPA) since we cannot disconnect service or apply late fees?

A: The DPA terms specified in Wis. Admin. Code §§ PSC 185.38(6), PSC 113.0404(7), and PSC 134.063(7) state that if a customer has not fulfilled the terms of a DPA, the utility is not required to negotiate a subsequent DPA, unless there has been a significant change in the customer’s ability to pay since the agreement was established. When the public health emergency is lifted, the utility would not be required to establish another DPA with a customer who defaulted on a DPA and could proceed with going through the normal disconnection process, unless there has been a significant change in the customer’s ability to pay since the agreement was established. If the default occurs while the public health emergency is still in effect, the utility may, – and is encouraged to, as a service to its customers – but is not required to, negotiate a subsequent DPA, unless there has been a significant change in the customer’s ability to pay since the agreement was established. 

 

Q: What if a customer won’t agree to terms of the DPA?

A: During the public health emergency, the utility should follow the procedures it would follow normally when the customer and utility are not able to come to an agreement. When the utility and customer cannot agree on terms, either party may ask the Commission to review the disputed issues. In this case, the utility could contact PSCConsumerAffairsMail@wisconsin.gov, and a Consumer Analyst would be assigned to its inquiry. 
 


Q: How do we know if a customer is unable to pay in full or is just taking advantage of the ability to establish a DPA? This could be a concern with large industrial customers.

A: The utility may discuss ability to pay with a customer when establishing a DPA but must offer a DPA to a customer that indicates they are unable to pay the bill in full. For a customer to remain current on a DPA, they need to pay their current charges and their installment payments in full and on-time every month. 
 


Q: How should a utility respond to a customer that informs the utility they’ve decided to defer the payment of their bills? How should a utility handle non-payment by a large customer (industrial)?

A: The Order associated with Docket 5-UI-120 is not a directive for customers to stop paying their bills. Customers who are able to pay their bills should continue paying them during the public health emergency. Customers who do not pay their bills may be subject to disconnection and late payment charges when the public health emergency is lifted. In addition, the Order provides for a utility to submit a request to the Commission to disconnect a customer during the public health emergency. 



Q: What can the utility do if it has concerns about identifying customers and collecting on accounts where the applicants were not truthful on the application?

A: While the Order prohibits utilities from disconnecting or refusing service for failing to provide identification information during the public health emergency, it does not prohibit the utility from asking for identification information. Upon the public health emergency being lifted, the utility may initiate disconnection of service pursuant to the procedures in Wis. Admin. Code chs. PSC 113, 134 and 185, in cases in which a customer refuses to provide the necessary application for service information. Municipal utilities that do not disconnect service may opt to use tax roll collections pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 66.0809. 

 
Q: How should the utility contact the Commission to request to disconnect a customer for a reason other than those specified in Wis. Admin. Code §§ 113.0301(4) and (5), 113.0302(4) and (5), 134.006(3) and (4), 134.0622 (3) and (4), and 185.37 (3)?

A: The utility should file its request on ERF under docket 5-UI-120. Please upload related documents to ERF via the confidential tab. Two documents will be required, one public document with customer information redacted and one confidential document which contains the customer information. For assistance with document filing, contact the Commission’s Records Management Team at PSCRecordsMail@wisconsin.gov or 608-261-8521.


 
Q: How should a utility request another type of modification to a requirement in the Order in 5-UI-120?

​A: The utility should file its request on ERF under docket 5-UI-120.

 

Q: Is a utility required to connect service to a customer that requests service at a seasonal property?

A: The Order states no public utility may disconnect or refuse service to any customer in any class for any reason other than those specified in Wis. Admin. Code §§ 113.0301(4) and (5), 113.0302(4) and (5), 134.006(3) and (4), 134.0622(3) and (4), and 185.37(3). If the customer requesting service does not meet the criteria for the exclusions listed above, the utility is required to provide service. 


 
Q. The 5-AF-105 document pertains to utility accounting issues. Where can I learn more about the specific issues involved in this docket?

A. The Commission’s website includes resources and training materials for accounting issues. Resources include the Accounting System for Utility Financial Reports for all electric, gas and water utilities, the Water Utility Reference Manual, and Water Utility Accounting FAQs. 

 

Q: What if we are unable to file our PSC Annual Report by the April 1, 2020 deadline?

A: Given the circumstances associated with this uncertain and challenging time, we are aware utility staff and consultants may have difficulty filing the 2019 PSC Annual Reports by the April 1 deadline this year. As such, the Commission is extending this year’s filing deadline to June 1, 2020 for all utilities. If you have questions related to the annual report, and you work for a municipally owned utility, please remember to consult the WEGS Help Document. If you work for an investor owned utility, please consult the IOU Help Document. You can also contact one of the Annual Report Help Desks:
 

 
Q: How can I receive future notifications from the Commission during the public health emergency?

A: The best way to receive timely correspondence from the Commission is to ensure the utility’s official name and contact information is up-to-date in the Commission’s Universal Name File. To check or change your utility’s information, go to http://apps.psc.wi.gov/pages/UtilityAddress.htm. Please note that only utility staff can update the address. If you do not know your utility’s log-in ID or password, please contact the Commission’s Records Management Team at PSCRecordsMail@wisconsin.gov or 608-261-8521. For utility staff who would like to receive notifications from the Commission but who are not listed as the primary contact in UNF, please contact Gillian Lilliehorn. 


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Q: How can I receive up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the state’s response?

A: You can subscribe to receive updates from the State of Wisconsin’s website dedicated to COVID-19:http://wisconsin.gov/covid-19. In addition, the Department of Health Services provides a near daily update on Wisconsin Eye at https://wiseye.org. Shortly following the briefings, the videos are posted on the DHS YouTube for viewing for those who are unable to watch live.

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Q: How can our utility request resources for items such as gloves, hand sanitizer, etc.?

A: Municipal utilities should submit requests through local emergency management. All others should send requests to DMAOPS@wisconsin.gov . Please do not submit requests through both.  


 
Q: ​Our utility’s essential workers have concerns about childcare options. Are there any resources available to help address these concerns?

A: The state wants to ensure essential employees can continue to report to work knowing their children are in a safe environment. To that end, Governor Evers created the Child Care for Essential Workers Taskforce. Led by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the taskforce is working with the Early Childhood Association (WECA) and Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) to connect essential workforce families in need of child care with locally available child care resources. 

DCF launched two new tools to help connect essential workforce families to local, safe child care. Healthcare workers and essential employees are now able to submit a request for care through the department’s updated Child Care Finder and can view up-to-date availability across the state using the department’s new​ child care map. Additional information for providers, essential workers and families can be found on the DCF COVID-19 Child Care webpage. For questions regarding this effort, please contact dcfmbcovid19@wisconsin.gov. ​


 
Q: Are there other organizations with resources and information dedicated to electric, gas, and water utility concerns about operations during the public health emergency?