Illinois utilities work with ICC to create COVID-19 relief measures for customers

Published on June 22, 2020 by Chris Galford

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Both ComEd and Ameren Illinois have released new measures to support customers struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of cooperation with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and stakeholders.

For ComEd, this took the form of an ICC-approved customer support package that will extend support operations well beyond the ICC’s mandates, establishing a suspension of disconnections and waiver of new late fees until either Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan or Aug. 1, 2020, whichever comes first. Eligible low-income customers — those earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level — also gained access to bill assistance. All customers were granted flexible payment options and a waiver of certain deposits and fees for a longer period.

“Although ComEd’s bills are lower than they were more than a decade ago, we recognize that our bills are only one piece of the puzzle as many Illinois families are experiencing financial hardship and related anxiety right now,” ComEd CEO Joe Dominguez said. “This is an extremely difficult time, and we are committed to doing everything we can to help ease our customers’ financial burden. That’s why we have worked closely with a broad coalition of stakeholders to design an unprecedented and comprehensive support package that provides support to customers who need it most.”

Residential customers pursuing flexible options could have payments spread out over up to 18 months. Low-income customers or those experiencing financial hardship could be given up to 24 months.

Ameren’s contribution was a plan known as the COVID-19 Economic Hardship Recovery Program, a similar mix of flexible payment options and direct bill payment assistance for struggling customers. Beginning in July, up to $8 million will be given to help qualified residential customers pay down existing balances, up to a maximum of $700. If customers still have a balance remaining after energy assistance like that, they will be able to apply for an extended payment schedule lasting up to 24 months.

“The package of economic relief we’re announcing today is another example of what can be accomplished when stakeholders work together to benefit the 1.2 million customers Ameren Illinois serves in 1,200 Downstate communities,” Richard Mark, chairman and president of Ameren Illinois, said. “Fortunately, Illinois has one of the most customer-centric and progressive energy frameworks in the country. The groundbreaking Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) – or Smart Grid Law – has made Illinois a national leader in smart grid development and energy innovation. It also established a cost-recovery mechanism through performance-based formula ratemaking that has kept rates low, created thousands of jobs, and, most importantly, during this COVID-19 pandemic, is allowing us to develop creative payment programs and offer direct financial assistance to our customers.”

Additionally, Ameren offered to reconnect any residential customers whose power was disconnected for non-payment during a period of up to one year before June 18, 2020. This offer was made without any reconnection fees attached.