hastings 012920 CHICAGO – As the world adapts to unprecedented change from coronavirus, a bipartisan group of legislators is urging state regulators to strengthen consumer protections to keep the lights on for residents and businesses turning to recovery in Illinois.

The Illinois Senate Energy Working Group, led by Chairman Michael E. Hastings, today sent a letter to the Illinois Commerce Commission urging the commission to adopt several reforms that would protect small and large energy consumers once Illinois emerges from the coronavirus shutdown.

The ICC has approved an emergency order preventing utilities from shutting off electric, natural gas, water and sewer service during the public health crisis, and it currently is considering proposals for protecting consumers for the following recovery period. The 13-member Senate working group, assembled to work on essential energy legislation from the pandemic, unanimously signed the letter supporting several proposals:

  • Delayed shutoffs – Recommending a grace period of at least 60 days after the stay-at-home shutdown order is lifted before a utility can shut off a customer’s electric service.

  • Delayed payments – Recommending a standard deferred payment arrangement between utilities and customers. All DPAs should be at least 12 months, and extend to 18 months or up to two years after a certified financial hardship. If a customers defaults, they should be able to enter a DPA, the group suggests.

  • Strong communication – Recommending following the end of this pandemic and any future public health emergency that utilities send clear, concise information in a letter to customers with past due account balances. They should outline customer payment options and other programs to offer financial assistance.

“Our working group has discussed legislation filed in the 101st General Assembly and has determined that consumer assistance to residential, business and industrial customers post-moratorium is of the utmost importance,” the group wrote in its letter. “Understanding that residents of the State of Illinois will endure financial hardship following this pandemic, we ask that the Commission give strong consideration to the following topic areas before your administrative body.”

Hastings, D-Frankfort, said the letter affirms the consensus opinion of the bipartisan working group that policymakers must do all they can to support consumers during the challenging months ahead, and protecting them from electric shutoffs and payment defaults is an important step – one that could be taken legislatively if not acted on by the Commerce Commission.

“Our state has been thrown into chaos over the past two months, and our role as legislators is to step up and provide support that our constituents need in these uncertain times,” Hastings said. “I want to thank Sen. Sue Rezin, the Republican spokesperson, and the 12 other members of our working group for setting partisan squabbling to embrace these protections that will make a difference for Illinois consumers.

“We hope the ICC moves quickly to stand with us and give consumers the assurance the lights will be on as we all work to rebuild our lives and livelihoods.”

More information and resources to help people navigate the coronavirus pandemic can be found at coronavirus.illinois.gov.