ICC documents show power shut off for thousands during pandemic

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ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Last month, over 1,900 homes in communities across central Illinois had their lights shut off for non-payment by Ameren Illinois.

Across the entire state, that number was 6,543. The power company serves a total of 1.2 million customers.

Disconnections were reported in zip codes near the following communities:

  • Bloomington-Normal: 187
  • Champaign-Urbana: 156
  • Charleston: 47
  • Danville: 212
  • Decatur: 387
  • Georgetown: 21
  • Hoopeston: 31
  • Jacksonville: 70
  • Lincoln: 81
  • Mahomet: 43
  • Mattoon: 60
  • Monticello: 22
  • Pana: 24
  • Taylorville: 39
  • Watseka: 30

These numbers were revealed by documents filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

In June, the ICC announced it reached an agreement with several utility companies.

Part of that agreement stipulated each utility company is required to report monthly disconnection, credit, and collections data by zip code “so that the commission may evaluate the impact on various communities.”

Of the 6,543 shut off in September, 155 were low-income residents, according to the documents filed by Ameren.

Over 103,000 received disconnection notices in September.

As of Oct. 6, over 45,000 customers in the state were newly enrolled in deferred payment agreements with the company. Almost 37,000 took up service and were already under existing payment plans.

It said it offers customers up to two years to retire a past-due balance.

The company said in a Sept. 22 press release that it will voluntarily extend its moratorium on service disconnections through March 2021 for customers with adverse health conditions, including someone recovering from COVID-19, customers eligible for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LI-HEAP), and “those experiencing hardship caused by COVID-19.”

“Residential customers with a past-due account balance who are not in one of the three categories noted above could have their service disconnected beginning Sept 24,” said the press release. “We continue to stress the need for all customers who are having difficulty paying their bills to call us and explore payment arrangements.”

Ameren has also provided $9 million in bill assistance to those struggling with payments. It said there are remaining LI-HEAP funds due to the moratorium eligible customers are being offered.

Ameren told WCIA that no one facing hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic should have to have their power shut off.

It added disconnections are only done as a last resort —and it’s not something anyone wants to do.

Ameren said it makes numerous attempts to reach out to customers and offer options, such as payment plans and bill assistance programs before they are disconnected.

Additionally, it said a number of customers who were disconnected last month have been reconnected, and that they want to work with people to avoid disconnections or reconnect their services.

“Our main message is to call us,” the representative said.

“Disconnection is always a last resort and we are here to help our customers to get back on track.”  

“ICC reminds customers to call the utility company if you have missed bill payments or you are struggling to pay your bill. No documentation or written proof is necessary, but you must make the phone call and verbalize your difficulty. This action will ensure a continuation of utility service. Deferred payment arrangements are also available for both residential and small business customers needing help managing their utility bill obligation during these difficult times.”

Illinois Commerce Commission.

For more information on LI-HEAP, click here. For Champaign County’s LI-HEAP program, click here.

For the latest updates on Ameren’s policies during COVID-19, click here.

Ameren Illinois

1-800-755-500

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