Commission votes to end COVID-19 utility shutoff moratorium

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In a 3-1 vote, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has approved a motion to end the utility shutoff moratorium enacted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Those who voted to end it, however, fear there will be huge bills for low-income families.

Vice chair David Sweet was the only dissenting vote.

“It would be ill-convinced and bad policy to subject 800,000 Pennsylvania utility customers, families and small businesses to the termination of vital services like water, gas, electricity or telecommunications while the deleterious effects of the pandemic remain,” he said.

Chair Gladys Brown Detrieuille split her vote, noting how difficult the situation is. 

Commissioners Ralph Yanora and John Coleman voted to approve the motion. 

Coleman noted there is an outstanding balance of about $1 billion statewide. And with winter coming, he fears extending the moratorium will leave low-income families with bills in default, and they may not be able to recover. He believes the commission needs to find a solution.

“We do have the framework for many of the items suggested, and again, I stand by ready to review and vote on any proposals that come before us,” he added.

There’s no date yet on when the moratorium would expire, or in what capacity. The commission is continuing to troubleshoot.