MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont utility regulators have reinstated a pandemic-inspired moratorium on the disconnection of electricity, natural gas and landline phone services because customers have not paid their bills.
In an order dated Tuesday, the Public Utilities Commission said the moratorium will last through March 31.
On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott thanked the Public Service Department for its efforts to get the moratorium reinstated.
“As we head into winter while still facing a global pandemic and its economic impacts, we all need to look out for our neighbors and ensure we protect the most vulnerable,” Scott said in a statement.
The commission first prohibited disconnections in March of this year, but that moratorium was lifted on Oct. 15.
Since the original moratorium was lifted, utilities were able to work with their customers so they could seek funds through a program designed to help pay the overdue bills of people in danger of having service cut off. But that program ended Dec. 15.
The coronavirus worsening pandemic and winter conditions prompted the commission to reconsider the moratorium.
“Vermonters need to be able to keep the lights on, their homes warm, and their phone lines open as they survive the winter months of the pandemic,” said commission chair Anthony Roisman.
On Wednesday, the Vermont Health Department reported almost 75 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to more than 6,675.
There were currently 27 people hospitalized, including seven in intensive care.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 116.43 new cases per day on Dec. 8 to 97.86 new cases per day on Dec. 22.
The latest average positivity rate in Vermont is 1.95%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Vermont the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 2.47% on Dec. 8 to 1.95% on Dec. 22.
No new fatalities were reported Wednesday, leaving the statewide total at 117 since the pandemic began.