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South Dakota PUC reminds consumers to utilize available resources during pandemic





FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 17, 2020
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

South Dakota PUC reminds consumers to utilize available resources during pandemic

PIERRE, S.D. – As the coronavirus outbreak progresses, many South Dakotans may continue to find themselves in unexpected positions. The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission reminds consumers that utility providers are committed to providing quality services during this challenging time and may be willing to work on flexible payment plans with customers who are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

“Due to COVID-19, many South Dakotans now find themselves without a paycheck to cover the cost of essential services including utility bills. It’s important for consumers to know that there are resources available to help them through this,” stated PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. “Each consumer’s situation is unique and the best way to evaluate your options is to contact your utility providers directly. They do not want to disconnect you. They want to work with you to help find options for you. The worst thing you can do is to not speak with your utility,” Hanson advised.

In response to the pandemic, many of South Dakota’s utility providers have announced policy changes including some companies’ decisions to suspend disconnections for non-payment. The PUC stresses that customers should contact their specific utility regarding these policies and reminds consumers these decisions are made on a company level and don’t apply across the board.

“Our economy has taken a huge hit due to the coronavirus. Providers understand customers may not be in a position to pay their bill in full right now and while the last thing that utilities want to do is disconnect services, some may not be in a position to do away with disconnects entirely,” said PUC Vice Chairman Chris Nelson. “If you’re struggling to pay utility bills, reach out to your provider and explain your situation. Communication is key to keeping services on,” he elaborated.

Consumers receiving federal stimulus funds as a result of COVID-19 are reminded to prioritize these funds to cover expenses for their essentials, including utility bills, so they are not faced with insurmountable expenses or face disconnection of utilities for non-payment down the road. Delays in disconnections does not mean a consumer no longer owes for their utility expenses. Like consumers, utilities have bills to pay in order to keep the lights and the heat on.

“Utility providers are working hard to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on their employees and customers without sacrificing the reliability of essential services we all depend on. That means sending workers out into the field to fix issues and maintain infrastructure. If you see a utility worker outside, please exercise good social distancing practices and maintain a 6-foot safety zone. Along with maintaining these distancing guidelines, please remind your family members that utility scams are happening and review the many ways they can help protect their personal information and checkbook,” said Commissioner Kristie Fiegen.

For more information about the resources available to you, contact your utility provider or the PUC by calling (800) 332-1782 or emailing PUCConsumerInfo@state.sd.us. For information and tips about how to handle scam calls, visit the PUC website at www.puc.sd.gov/scamcalls.

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