Some utilities concerned about NC order that allows late payments without cutoffs

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Executive Order 142 which keeps utility companies from shutting off services if customers can’t pay.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper extended the order until the end of this month.

It started as a way to help people financially impacted by COVID-19, but now some utility companies say they may have to raise rates if things don’t change soon.  

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell supports the companies that are asking for waivers.

He’s calling on Cooper to issue waivers for all citizen-owned utilities in the state because of the financial impacts.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s office says they will review any waiver requests, but so far only two cities have submitted requests.

Fayetteville Public Works Commission Spokeswoman Carolyn Justice-Hinson says about 30 percent of their customers have past due balances right now, and half of those would have had services disconnected under normal circumstances.

“Our biggest message to customers is let us help you manage that past due balance,” Justice-Hinson said.

Once the order is lifted, the entire back balance will be due within six months.

Justice-Hinson recommends paying at least something every month to avoid double payments in the future.

“You may not be able to pay the entire balance, but pay something because what you pay now, you’re not going to have to pay later,” she said.

PWC decreased electric rates by about 5 percent back in May, a move that was approved before COVID-19. But if the executive order doesn’t end July 31 and PWC’s reserves drop lower than they are now, raising rates is a possibility.

“We know it’s a hardship anytime people have to have their services cut off and that is the last thing that we want to do,” Justice-Hinson said. “We encourage people to not wait, don’t delay in making arrangements, talking to our customer service and let us help with your accounts.”

PWC customer Jahrod Phillips hasn’t had a problem paying his bills, but he encourages people to pay what they can, so there aren’t unintended consequences.

“If they don’t pay for it now, then at the end they’re going to have one big bill, then going to have to try to pay it all at once,” Phillips said.

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