Water, gas and electricity service won't be turned off for Twin Ports customers unable to pay their utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minnesota Power and Superior Water Light & Power, both owned by Duluth-based Allete, announced Monday the "immediate suspension of disconnections for residential customers having financial hardship." On Friday, Duluth's Comfort Systems said it would be halting any disconnections until April 15.
The moves come as communities take aggressive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness that develops from the new coronavirus. Schools and businesses are encouraging students and employees to learn and work from home. For some workers, it's meant a reduction in hours at work or no work at all.
"We recognize many of our residential customers may be facing financial hardship during this time and worried about paying their utility bill," Allete President and CEO Bethany Owen said in a news release Monday.
Minnesota Power provides electricity for 145,000 customers and Superior Water, Light & Power provides electricity, water and natural gas to the city of Superior and other nearby areas.
Minnesota Power has "voluntarily" extended its adherence to Minnesota's Cold-Weather Rule to May 31, a law that makes sure residential customers having difficulty paying bills can keep their utilities on in the winter if they work a payment plan out with the provider.
All customers, including businesses, are encouraged to reach out to Minnesota Power and SWL&P to discuss payment options.
Last week, Wisconsin's Public Service Commission said the state's utilities cannot disconnect residential service during the public health emergency and must make "reasonable attempts" to reconnect residents that have been disconnected from utilities, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Saturday. That order applies to Superior Water, Light & Power customers.
The company is also suspending non-emergency customer site visits but will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when responding to emergencies
Additionally, Comfort Systems — Duluth's city-owned provider of water, sewer and natural gas utilities — has said it will halt all disconnections during the winter months.
"For the time being, I have directed city staff to stop all utility shutoffs through at least the April 15 warm weather date to make sure people have service as this unfolds," Noah Schuchman, the city's chief administrative officer said at a news conference Friday.
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