Utility COVID Resources

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​​​​​​​​​​​​PSC staff are 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. 

This content reflects updates to Docket 5-UI-120​ and Docket 5-AF-105​ based on the December 2021 Commission meetings.​​

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: What is required for utilities to be allowed to disconnect service to residential customers for nonpayment?​

A:​ In ​addition to the customer notices rules in Wis. Admin. Code PSC § 185.37, ​​utilities that plan to disconnect residential service for nonpayment must file a disconnection plan with the Commission.

​Disconnection plans can be submitted by completing the disconnection plan sur​vey. If a utility disconnection plan changes, an updated plan must be filed at least five business days prior to implementing any changes.​ 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 to fulfill the reporting obligations in​ Docket 5-AF-105. The last quarter of 2021 will be the last quarterly report requi​red.

No further quarterly reports will be required for​ docket 5-UI-120. ​​

​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 househo​ld 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.​

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 car​​d 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 (i.e. water and electric), the letter must indicate which service type and fees the request pertains to.​​ ​ ​

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: 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: January 31, 2022

  • Final Reporting Period: October 1, 2021 through December 31, 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: How long do utilities need to continue filing the required reports?​

A: On December 22, 2021, the Commission ordered that the required reporting for the period from October 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 shall be the final quarterly reporting for docket 5-AF-105.  

Q: Do these reporting requirements apply to all utilities? How do we file the required reports?  

A: 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: Can our utility recovery COVID-19 related costs?

A: Yes, utilities can seek recovery of the reported COVID-19 financial impact.  Utilities must file a rate application within one to two years of the effective date of Supplemental Order - Third dated December 22, 2021​.

Q: What if our utility does not seek recovery of COVID-19 related costs?

A: If a utility does not seek recovery by the Commission-determined deadline, it shall write off the reported COVID-19 financial impact using a three- to five-year amortization period.  

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 page for all electric and gas utilities, the Water Utility Reference Manual, and Water Utility Accounting page.

Resources

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

A: You can subscribe to receive updates to Docket 5-UI-120 and Docket 5-AF-105 using e-Subscribe.​ Follow the instructions on the ERF-EZ Subscription box. To see all documents filed in the dockets, use the links below. 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 use this e-Services Portal page. 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 608-261-8524. 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 Kimberly Lillegard at Kimberly.Lillegard@wisconsin.gov​ ​

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. In addition, the Department of Health Services provides a near daily update on Wisconsin Eye. Shortly following the briefings, the videos are posted on the DHS YouTube channel 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: Are there other organizations with resources and information dedicated to electric, gas, and water utility concerns about operations during the public health emergency?

A: The following organizations offer information and assistance specific to electric and gas utilities: