Wisconsin PSC approves debt forgiveness program for low-income WPL customers

Published on December 28, 2020 by Chris Galford

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The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) approved an Arrears Management Program (AMP) proposed by Wisconsin Power and Light (WPL) last week — a debt forgiveness program meant to offset the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the program, eligible, low-income residential customers of WPL will be automatically enrolled in a scheme to cut their arrears balance by 25 percent. If they keep current on their utility bills, those customers will also gain additional reductions each month.

“We’ve seen the effects of COVID-19 disproportionally impact people of color as well as low-income households,” Rebecca Cameron Valcq, chairperson of the PSC, said. “Programs like these are not only the right thing to do, but our analysis shows that the benefits to the utility and all customers outweigh the costs.”

The proposal was approved following an analysis by PSC staff, which determined that the costs taken on by the company in forgiving this debt would be offset by savings from regular payments and reduced disconnection and reconnection costs in all likely scenarios. As a result, the PSC voted to approve the plan for one year. Along the way, though, WPL will be required to report program metrics regularly. WPL could apply for a continuation of the program at year’s end.

The ambitious WPL plan stems from a September PSC order that required all utilities to submit ideas for addressing the financial impacts of customer debts by Jan. 15, 2021. While it doesn’t wholly fill that requirement, it does help move things along.