Advanced notice on disconnection provides customers time to pay down $30 million in past due balances
Today, Mayor Victoria Woodards announced that the City of Tacoma will maintain the moratorium on utility disconnections until March 31, 2022. The March 31 date provides Tacoma Public Utilities’ customers with advance notice so that TPU can provide assistance and access to resources which may help them make a plan for how to pay down past due balances and apply for available payment assistance before disconnections for nonpayment resume. At that time, Tacoma Public Utilities will begin the process for disconnecting service, ending the moratorium that was put in place at the start of the State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A similar moratorium set by the State of Washington ended in September 2021.
“This additional time is intended to give residents enough notice to make a plan to take care of outstanding balances, including access to programs and resources that may help,” said Woodards. “We want to get these customers onto a payment plan right away and connect them with resources to catch them up on their payments so that no one loses service, especially the more financially vulnerable in our community.”
When the moratorium ends on March 31, TPU will place all past due balances on an automatic, interest- free, 24-month installment plan. Making payments on past due balances now ahead of the March 31 date will lower the monthly amount customers will owe on their installment plans.
Since the start of the pandemic, while customers have not been disconnected, nearly $30 million in unpaid utility bills have accumulated, with more than 27,000 TPU customers owing past due balances, many of whom were income constrained prior to the financial impacts of the pandemic. Customers on the installment plans must stay current on new usage charges while paying off past due balances to prevent disconnection. If customers do not stay current on new and past payments, their utility service will be subject to shut off, as TPU is required to collect on these balances.
“We need TPU customers to take action now,” said Steve Hatcher, manager of Customer Services. “Our team is here to help with a flexible, hands-on approach, and our goal is for all TPU customers to keep their services.”
To help customers with past due balances, utility staff will work with them to identify available assistance programs and provide payment plan options. After the disconnection process resumes, TPU customers with past due balances will receive a series of notifications from the utility, and the earliest a customer could be without service is May 2022.
Tens of millions of dollars are still available through several relief funds and utility assistance programs, but customers must apply for them while they last. Customers can submit an assessment form to TPU to see if they are eligible for payment assistance. Customers needing help with the assessment form can contact TPU’s Customer Services team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Once the assessment is complete, a Customer Services care specialist will reach out to applicants to discuss available resources.
More information about payment plans and how to apply for relief and assistance programs is available at MyTPU.org/COVID19.