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

(Updated March 29, 2021​)

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



General Information

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. 



Disconnections and Reconnections

Q: When will utilities be allowed to disconnect service to residential customers for nonpayment?

A: The first possible date for disconnection of service if a customer has not paid a bill in full and if the utility and customer have not reached an agreement on a deferred payment agreement is after April 15, 2021.  Utilities that wish to disconnect customers due to nonpayment must comply with the notice requirements (see below).

Utilities that plan to disconnect residential service for nonpayment must file a disconnection plan with the Commission.
​Disconnection plans can be submitted by completing this survey.

Utilities that previously filed disconnection plans with the Commission only need to update the plan if the disconnection plan changes prior to November 1, 2021.

A new disconnection plan or an updated plan must be filed at least (5) business days prior to implementing any changes.​


​ ​
Q: How does a utility file its disconnection plan with the Commission?
  

A: Utilities that have previously filed disconnection plans with the Commission need only file an update to the disconnection plan if a substantial change has been made prior to November 1, 2021. Disconnection plans can be submitted by completing this survey.

For questions about the disconnection plan, please contact a PSC Consumer Analyst at ​pscconsumeraffairsmail@wisconsin.gov​.​


 
Q: Are there other reporting requirements for all utilities, regardless of whether they intend to disconnect?
  

A: In addition to the disconnection plans for some utilities, described above, all utilities must file a quarterly report with the Commission. This quarterly report covers the requirements in docket 5-UI-120, including information related to credit and collections. The next quarterly report is due July 31​, 2021, and may be submitted by completing this survey.

Additionally, all utilities are required to submit quarterly reports to fulfill the reporting obligation in docket 5-AF-105. ​​

Commission staff are developing a format for the next quarterly reports. More information and a link will be released soon.​​

For questions about the report survey and reporting requirements in general, please contact a PSC Consumer Analyst at pscconsumeraffairsmail@wisconsin.gov​​.


Q: Are customers still eligible for a delay in disconnection if there is a medical emergency in the home?
  
A: Yes, customer notification of a medical emergency rules continue to apply. In addition, a positive COVID-19 test of a customer or a member of a customer’s household shall automatically be considered a medical emergency for the purposes of a 21-day medical extension of service (even if the customer has had an extension for another medical reason), and the 21-day extension must be extended if the customer, or a person in the household, is still under a COVID-19 quarantine at the end of the original 21-day period, as documented by a medical provider.

 
Q: Does the extension of the moratorium on disconnections have an impact on nonresidential or commercial and industrial (C&I) customers?
  
A: No, utilities may still send disconnection notices to nonresidential customers beginning July 15, 2020 with the first date of disconnection of service for nonpayment on or after July 25, 2020. Utilities disconnecting or refusing nonresidential service are required to have a disconnection plan on file and complete the quarterly reporting on credit and collections protocols using the online survey as described above.​

  

Late Fees​

Q: When can a utility resume assessing late fees?
  
A: Utilities were authorized to resume assessing late payment charges (late fees) beginning July 15, 2020, on amounts incurred beginning on July 15, 2020 or later. The utility would not apply late fees to amounts incurred during the period from March 24, 2020 to July 14, 2020.​

 
Q: What if our billing system does not allow us to select certain months or a specific time period for removing or assessing late fees?
  

A: A utility could elect to continue to waive late fees in a non-discriminatory manner and could select an end date that works best with its system or bill cycle, up until April 15, 2021. 

The billing system should not be a concern for utilities that assess a one-time late payment charge, as they would just begin assessing late fees again on use that occurred July 15 or later. 

Utilities that bill the one percent monthly late fee might choose to “turn on" late payment charges, calculate the amount of those charges that pertain to use incurred between March 24 and July 14, and place a line item credit (COVID Late Payment Fee Credit) on the bill in that amount. 

Utilities may also wish to isolate remaining amounts outstanding that were incurred between March 24 and July 14 for billing purposes, so the monthly charge is not applied to those amounts once turned on. 

Utilities using tax roll that are unable to waive late fees for this period may wish to request to waive late fees until after tax roll collections. The utility may consider whether it has the ability to prorate late fees as of a certain date, similar to when a new rate becomes effective. ​Please contact a PSC Consumer Analyst at with any pscconsumeraffairsmail@wisconsin.gov with any implementation questions.


 Q: Are utilities allowed to continue to waive late fees beyond July 15, 2020?
  
A: Utilities may elect to continue to waive late fees in a non-discriminatory manner until April 15, 2021. Previously, utilities were permitted to optionally waive late fees in a non-discriminatory manner until December 31, 2020.  In the Commission's October 29, 2020 Order, this deadline was extended to April 15, 2021.  (PSC REF#: 399114).  This does not mean the utility must waive late fees until April 15; it means April 15 is the last date a utility may waive fees. 

 

Deferred Payment Agreements (DPAs)​​  

Q: How long is a utility required to offer a DPA?
  
A: A utility shall offer every residential customer a DPA if they are unable to pay their bill in full. If the customer defaults on a DPA, a utility may decline to offer a subsequent DPA unless the customer is low-income or has had a significant change in their ability to pay since the previous, defaulted DPA was established.

At its open meeting on March 18, 2021, the Commission voted to require utilities to offer a DPA to any low-income residential customer who is unable to pay a bill in full, prior to disconnecting service, even if the terms of a previous DPA were unfulfilled. A municipal utility is not required to offer a subsequent DPA prior to transferring an amount to the tax roll in cases in which the terms of the previous DPA were unfulfilled and there has not been a significant change in customer’s ability to pay.

Utilities that have implemented and currently have in effect tariff provisions under the authority of Wis. Stat. § 66.0809(9) relating to DPAs for residential customers who are tenants, may choose to suspend this tariff provision without obtaining a waiver from the Commission. Utilities that continue to abide by this tariff provision would not be required to offer residential customers who are tenants a DPA, even if they are low-income.
​​
 
Q: What if a customer won’t agree to terms of the DPA?
  
A: 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.

 ​
 

Credit Card Fee Waivers

Q: How long may a utility continue to waive credit card fees for its customers using the temporary tariff established under 5-UI-120?
  
A: If a utility has in effect a Commission approved, temporary tariff, the utility may continue to waive credit card processing fees until further order of the Commission or until the utility notifies the Commission it intends to discontinue waiving the fees


Q: How should a utility inform the Commission that it wants to stop temporarily waiving ​credit card convenience fees?
  
A: The utility should file its request letter on the PSC’s Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system under the docket that approved the utility’s request to waive the fees. 

  • If your utility has more than one service type and filed separate dockets for the credit card fee waiver, you must file a separate request letter under each docket. The name of the ERF submission should be:

    • “Request to Opt Out of the Temporary Service Rules Waiving Credit Card Fees in Response to COVID-19 – Water”
    • “Request to Opt Out of the Temporary Service Rules Waiving Credit Card Fees in Response to COVID-19 – Electric”
    • “Request to Opt Out of the Temporary Service Rules Waiving Credit Card Fees in Response to COVID-19 – Gas” 

  • The request letter must include the preferred end date and an estimation of the credit card transaction fees that were waived during the authorized time period. If the utility has more than one service type (ie. water and electric), the letter must indicate which service type and fees the request pertains to.​

Q: Can a utility still request a temporary credit card fee waiver tariff?
  
A: Yes, a utility may request a temporary credit card fee waiver by filing its request letter on the PSC’s Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system.  

  • If your utility has more than one service type and filed separate dockets for the credit card fee waiver, you must file a separate request letter under each docket. 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 request letter must include the preferred effective date. If the utility has more than one service type (ie. water and electric), the letter must indicate which service type and fees the request pertains to.​
​ ​


 

Other Provisions in 5-UI-120​

Q: Are there any other temporary provisions in effect?
  
A: Decisions on utility requests for deadline tolling and extensions, and utility requests for tariff provisions waivers, have been delegated to the Division Administrators until further order of the Commission.
​ 

Q: What temporary service rule suspensions and other provisions were established to provide customer protections during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: On March 22, 2020, Governor Evers issued Emergency Order #11, which suspended certain PSC administrative rules and provided for the Commission to adopt requirements as necessary to respond to the public health emergency. The Commission opened two dockets related to Emergency Order #11 and pursuant to the Commission’s authority in Wis. Stat. § 196.70. 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. An Order and Supplemental Order in this docket (PSC REF#: 386373 andPSC REF#: 390567) provided temporary customer service protections relating to disconnection, application for service, deferred payment agreements, late fees, cash deposit requirements, and credit card fee waivers. On June 26, 2020, the Commission issued a Supplemental Order (PSC REF#: 392763) that provided guidance and timelines for lifting the temporary provisions.  On July 24, 2020, the Commission issued the Order on Residential Disconnection (PSC REF#: 394202), which stayed a utilities’ authority to disconnect residential customers until September 1, 2020 and provided guidance on monthly reporting requirements and on submitting disconnection plans to the Commission. On August 28, 2020, the Commission issued a Supplemental Order to the Order on Residential Disconnection (PSC REF#: 396067), which extended the date on which a utility could disconnect or refuse residential service for nonpayment until October 1, 2020. On September 29, 2020, the Commission issued an additional Supplemental Order to the Order on Residential Disconnection (PSC REF#: 397476), which extended the date on which a utility could disconnect or refuse residential service for nonpayment until November 1, 2020. ​ On October 29, 2020, the Commission issued an additional Supplemental Order to the Order on Residential Disconnection (PSC REF#: 399114), which extended the date on which a utility could disconnect or refuse residential service for nonpayment until April 15, 2021.

  • ​5-AF-105: Accounting Treatment for Utility Costs Incurred Due To and During Declared Public Health Emergency for COVID-19.


​ ​

Docket 5-AF-105

Q: I understand there are accounting ​reporting requirements for expenditures resulting from compliance with orders by the Commission in docket 5-UI-120 and as otherwise required to ensure provision of safe, reliable, and affordable access to utility services during the COVID-19 pandemic. What are those requirements?
  
A: On May 14, 2020, after receiving comments from utilities the Commission defined the COVID-19-related expenses, foregone revenue, and carrying costs that are eligible for deferral and ordered utilities to report on these costs (PSC REF#: 389500). The Commission also noted that accurate documentation and reporting will be essential as utilities file future rate applications seeking recovery of deferred balances. As such, the Commission directed utilities to provide total deferral reporting by FERC or USOA account. On August 28, 2020, the Commission required such reporting on a quarterly basis for all utilities. (PSC REF#: 396068.) Further, the Commission required that all utilities submit reporting, including utilities that have no COVID-19-related expenses to report.

In order to assist utilities in completing the accounting reporting requirements for COVID-19-related costs, Commission staff developed an online  ​5-AF-105 COVID-19 Accounting Report survey that provides a standardized method of reporting for utilities. All utilities should complete the survey, even if they are reporting $0 for any COVID-19-related expenses. 

  • Next Report Due: July 31, 2021

  • Reporting Period: April 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021

  • Utilities required to submit accounting report survey:

    • All utilities, regardless of Class size. 
    • All utilities, regardless of service type(water, electric, natural gas). 
    • All utilities, even if a utility has no COVID-19-related expenses. 
    • Unregulated sewer utilities should not complete the survey.
​​

For questions about the survey and how to report on COVID-19 expenses, please contact the following Commission staff:  

Q: Do these reporting requirements apply to all utilities? How do we file the required reports?
  
All utilities must complete the 5-AF-105 COVID-19 Accounting report survey, even if they are reporting $0 COVID-19-related costs. ​ For questions about the survey and how to report on COVID-19 expenses, please contact the following Commission staff: ​ ​


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.


  ​

Resources

Q: Where can I find a link to the PSC Webinar presentation on Docket 5-UI-120 and a PDF of the PowerPoint?
  ​
A. You can view the PSC Webinar presentation on Docket 5-UI-120 by going to the following link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/338973252993073933.​ A PDF of the PowerPoint is also available ​here.  


Q: Where can I find additional information about the COVID-19 related 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: 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. 

 ​
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.


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 any considerations to keep in mind as water customers begin to re-open buildings?

A: The Commission encourages water utilities to work with customers and notify them of the precautions necessary to ensure appropriate water quality in advance of buildings being reopened. Resources are available at the following: 


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

 

​​




​​