Going Dark: How Expiring Moratoriums Could Affect Millions of Americans and the Utilities that Serve them

It goes without saying 2020 has been hard. And we understand it's been difficult to balance making necessary business decisions and having empathy for your customers. With state moratoriums set to expire soon, these decisions are getting tougher.

It's About to Get Worse
There are currently 56 million households in the United Sates without any sort of protections in place for utility bills and service shut-offs. By the end of October, roughly 80 million households will be without any sort of protections. Of those 80 million households, 18.5 million live below the federal poverty line, and 9.7 million have at least one person who is unemployed. By the end of the year, these numbers are expected to get larger.

There Isn't One 'Right' Move
It's in no one's interest to have a large number of customers default, yet at the same time it isn't fair to ask utility companies to shoulder the financial burden of customers who can't pay. Extending moratoriums, while providing temporary relief, could do more long-term harm than good. If they last until spring, many customers will have a year's worth of unpaid utility bills coming due.

Customers Are Getting Creative, and Desperate
While many utility companies have offered financial assistance and debt forgiveness, many haven't. In turn, many customers are getting creative, or getting lucky, in finding ways to pay their bills. Many customers are increasingly turning to friends, family, and charities in order to be able to pay their bills. But the question remains, how much longer can customers wait to pay their bills before being shut off as moratoriums expire, and how will utility companies make up for lost revenue?

It's Not All Doom and Gloom
While things may look grim for the time being, it is worth noting customers want to be able to pay their utility bills. While 37.1% of customers say they need some degree of financial forgiveness, 24% say they would like to work with their utility companies and utilize rate structures that would allow for energy consumption during off-peak hours and 50.7% of customers have actively taken steps to reduce energy consumption overall.