News

Some utilities resume shutoffs as COVID-19 emergency continues

Published October 5, 2020

A moratorium on utility disconnections remains in place for Minnesota’s regulated utilities, but some unregulated cooperative and municipal utilities have again begun shutting off customers who have past-due bills.

child on laptop at kitchen table

CUB has received anecdotal reports of shutoffs by more than two dozen cooperative and municipal utilities located across Minnesota. It is difficult to know how many utilities are shutting off customers or how many people have been affected. Regulated utilities (including Xcel, CenterPoint, Minnesota Power, and others) file public updates each month, but co-ops and municipal utilities do not report this kind of information. Instead, CUB depends on consumers who contact us and information shared with us by people around the state.

Everyone in Minnesota must have utility service during the COVID-19 public health emergency. People need electricity and gas in order to be able to stay safely in their homes, to store and prepare food, to keep water and septic systems working in rural areas. This is even more critical as temperatures dip below freezing around the state, and as many children need electricity in order to be able to attend school remotely. 

CUB, together with the Energy CENTS Coalition and Minnesota Community Action Partnership, is communicating with the statewide associations of cooperative and municipal utilities and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. We are seeking early release of energy assistance funds, voluntary suspensions of shutoffs by the utilities, and other options. State law limits the degree to which cooperative and municipal utilities can be regulated except by their local boards, but we are continuing to explore policy avenues for consumer protection.

If you receive electricity or gas service from your city or a local cooperative and you are behind on your bills, here is what you need to know.

  • Contact your utility. Let them know your financial situation and ask to arrange a payment plan that works for you. If you have been affected by COVID-19, make sure to tell them directly, as this may open up additional flexibility.
  • If your utility is unwilling to make a reasonable payment plan, contact the Consumer Affairs Office at the Public Utilities Commission (651-296-0406, 800-657-3782, or consumer.puc@state.mn.us). They can help to mediate.
  • If you require electricity service for medically necessary equipment, the utility must keep your service on or reconnect service if it has been shut off. You will need to provide certification from a medical provider. If you have an overdue balance, you can be required to make a payment plan. Contact your utility so they are aware of your medical need, and they will tell you what you must provide. 
  • You may be eligible for assistance to help with your past-due balance. Here is a partial list of available resources

If you run into any trouble, contact CUB (651-300-4701, 844-MINN-CUB, info@cubminnesota.org, or Facebook message). Our outreach team has assisted more than 200 Minnesotans who are at risk of disconnection or have already been shut off since the COVID emergency began. We can help you understand your rights, connect you with assistance, and help you try to get your service back on. The information you share also helps us advocate for you and your neighbors. We depend on information from people like you.

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Author: Annie Levenson-Falk

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