IUB Order Directs a Phase-in of Utility Service Disconnections
In connection with the May 27, 2020, expiration of Governor Kim Reynolds’ proclamation that eases restrictions and permits the reopening of some businesses, the Iowa Utilities board (IUB) on May 20, 2020, issued an order that establishes requirements that Iowa utilities must follow before they can resume disconnections of customers’ utility service. The order updates an emergency order issued by the IUB on March 27 in docket SPU-2020-0003 that restricted utility shutoffs by all electric and natural gas utilities, including investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative, plus all investor-owned water utilities.
On March 27, 2020, the Iowa Utilities Board issued an emergency order regarding the disconnection of electric, natural gas, and water utility customers for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. On March 19, 2020, the IUB urged all utilities to refrain from utility service shutoffs, especially water service.
two weeks earlier, on March 13, 2020, the IUB issued an emergency order directing all electric and natural gas utilities in the state to cease disconnection of residential service due to nonpayment. The emergency order, issued in Docket No. SPU-2020-0003, was in response to a statewide disaster proclamation of public health emergency issued on March 9, 2020, by Gov. Reynolds and to enhance the state’s response to COVID-19. On April 27, 2020, Gov. Reynolds issued a new proclamation extending the public health emergency to May 27, 2020.
Income-eligible Iowans typically have until April 30 each year to apply for limited financial heating assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The application deadline was extended to June 30 this year by the Iowa Department of Human Rights (IDHR).
The LIHEAP program is designed to help low-income families meet the partial cost of home heating through a one-time payment made directly to the utility or heating fuel vendor. Iowa law also protects qualified applicants who are the head of a household from being disconnected from natural gas or electric service during the annual winter moratorium, normally November 1 through April 1.
Iowa customers seeking LIHEAP financial assistance for utility bills should contact their local community action agency to discuss eligibility guidelines. Although qualified applicants cannot be disconnected during the moratorium, the IUB urges all LIHEAP-certified customers to continue paying toward their energy bills to avoid accumulating high debt and facing potential utility service disconnection once the moratorium period ends.