CPS Energy and SAWS suspend disconnections for the holiday season
Distressed residents of San Antonio don’t have to worry about their utilities staying on while on vacation.
CPS Energy will continue its annual tradition of suspended disconnections during the holidays, officials told members of the city council’s municipal utilities committee on Tuesday. The San Antonio water system will suspend disconnections for several weeks during the season.
A CPS Energy executive also told committee members that in his efforts to recover funds from overdue accounts, he will soon follow SAWS’s lead and begin automatically enrolling eligible residential customers into payment plans.
While CPS Energy has yet to disconnect residential customers, it will not cut residential and commercial customers until January 4, CPS Energy senior director of corporate communications Melissa Sorola said on Tuesday.
The electric utility has shut down around 351 commercial customers since disconnections resumed in October, but managed to restore service to around 74% of those customers, Sorola said. The majority of the unreconnected properties were vacant, she added. CPS Energy owes about $ 141 million in overdue accounts, the utility said at a city council meeting earlier this month.
âIn general, we don’t usually do any disconnections while on vacation,â Sorola said. “We don’t do them during extreme weather events either.”
The SAWS has suspended disconnections from November 19 and will not cut residential or commercial customers until December 5. It will briefly resume disconnections from December 6 to 16, then suspend disconnections again from January 17 to January 3, said Anne Hayden, communications manager for SAWS.
At the end of September, SAWS had approximately 65,000 customers overdue for 60 days or more and at risk of going offline. That total is now just over 58,000, “So it’s a step in the right direction,” said Mary Bailey, vice president of customer experience at SAWS.
The total amount owed to SAWS by these customers is approximately $ 50 million, Bailey said. She added that SAWS could raise up to $ 10 million from the city to help cover part of that balance after city council approved the use of $ 30 million of its ARPA funding to help residents in difficulty with assistance to utilities earlier this month. CPS Energy will be eligible for $ 20 million. Customers requesting this help must meet three eligibility requirements: reside in San Antonio, be enrolled in a payment plan or affordability program, and have proof of hardship that occurred between March 2020 and September 2021.
âIt looks like we need to qualify almost 35,000 clients to getâ¦ the full $ 10 million, but that’s going to be a challenge,â Bailey said. âRight now, we are currently working with the city to understand what options we can have. “
It will be difficult to get each of those customers to show documented proof of difficulties related to the pandemic, Bailey said. The types of documents that utilities will accept include a pay stub, proof of unemployment, a layoff notice or a self-signed affidavit, she added.
After seeing the number of its overdue customers continue to grow month by month compared to the same period last year, CPS Energy will begin automatically enrolling customers in payment plans to help them avoid disconnection, said DeAnna Hardwick, Acting Executive Vice President of Client Strategy. Customers who actively participate in the payment plan are not eligible for disconnection.
CPS Energy will automatically enroll residential customers in installment plans that meet two criteria; accounts must be overdue and they must live in a census tract qualified by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
, or be enrolled in one of the utility’s assistance programs, Sorola said. The utility does not yet have a final date for the start of these automatic registrations, she added.
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