State ends moratorium on utility shut-offs

Washington state’s moratorium on utility shut-offs for nonpaying customers expired on Thursday.

However, those who live in Seattle won’t be affected because Mayor Jenny Durkan extended the utility shut-off moratorium along with an eviction moratorium until Jan. 15, 2022.

In most places outside the city, you will have to make arrangements to pay your bill, or risk shut-off.

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee extended the statewide eviction moratorium through Oct. 31. In April, he ordered a ban on utility shut-offs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and extended the moratorium in July, but that ban is expiring Thursday.

Some cities have already declared their moratoriums on utility shut-offs will continue, including Puyallup. Tacoma’s mayor also vowed to help people who are behind on payments. Like Seattle, Tacoma has its own moratorium.

The expiration of the utility shut-off moratorium means hundreds of thousands of customers with bills will have to pay, but there are programs that can help.

Customers should contact their utility companies to ask about relief programs or to make arrangements for payment plans.

Some customers may qualify for the federal Low-Income House Energy Assistance Program. Eligibility depends on household income.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is another resource, and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission lists utility help options on its website.