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Kansas utilities to continue payment plans, waive late fees during pandemic

Titus Wu
Topeka Capital-Journal
Another moratorium on utility disconnects is being considered by the Kansas Corporation Commission.

Utilities in Kansas will have to continue offering 12-month payment plans and waiving late fees, according to an order issued Tuesday by the Kansas Corporation Commission.

The original order issued in May did the same thing and was set to expire at the end of this year. 

Now, KCC has extended that to continue "until the COVID-19 pandemic has officially ended," according to a news release, and the order itself states that "these customer protections are the minimum a utility must offer." 

Electric, water and natural gas utilities under the corporation's jurisdiction will be affected.

According to a report by KCC staff, those protections have worked thus far in the pandemic, and roughly 90% of customers are keeping up with payment plans. 

All this comes as Evergy, the state's largest utility provider, said last week that it has again placed a moratorium on disconnecting heat and electricity for residents. Put in place late November, it will last at least until March 2021.

Some concerned citizens and advocates, however, are arguing for that moratorium to be retroactive and last as long as the pandemic continues.

“The issue is the tens of thousands of people who have been shut off over the winter,” Ty Gorman, an organizer with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, had said. “Will they be turned back on?”

In light of this, the KCC said it will be looking into whether to issue an order for all utility companies reinstituting the suspension of utility disconnects. A recommendation from staff will be due Jan. 8.