More residents facing shut-off of power
TO GET HELP
-- Energy assistance is available to residents who qualify. Customers can apply through May 15. Call the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance program at (866) 432-8947 or go to homeenergyplus.wi.gov.
-- Residents are encouraged to contact Alliant Energy when they first begin to fall behind on their payments. Call 800-255-4268.
JANESVILLE More Janesville residents are behind on their power bills this spring compared to last year and face disconnection of their electricity and heat.
Steve Schultz, spokesman for Alliant Energy, said the number of customers in Janesville who were more than 90 days behind on their bills as of March 31 was 3,216. That compares to 3,026 last year at that time.
They owe a total of $1.2 million, compared to $1.1 million last year.
State law forbids electric companies from shutting off power between Nov. 1 and April 15.
WP&L provides electric service to about 459,000 customers and natural gas service to about 180,000 customers in 600 communities in central and southern Wisconsin. Most customers in Rock County receive both from Alliant.
When considering all of the company’s customers, 26,969 were 90 days or more behind on their bills at the end of March. That number is up almost 1,000 compared to last year.
The amount owed by the customers this year is about $8.7 million, up from $8.5 million last year.
Schultz said his company makes numerous attempts to contact residents before their power is shut off.
The company is willing to work with people if they contact the company and make minimum payments, Schultz said.
One option is to pay 30 percent of the account balance the first month. Beginning in June, the percentage goes up by 10 percent each month through September, according to a news release.
“We view disconnection as a last-resort option,” Schultz said. “As long as they’re making that effort (at monthly payments), we’re not going to disconnect them.”
Customers who do not contact the company are the ones likely to be disconnected, Schultz said.
Overwhelmingly, the majority of customers eventually pay their bills, he said.
Schultz said company officials believe the still-shaky economy is the reason for the increase in delinquent bills.
“We believe that has to still be a factor for people,” he said.
Fortunately, the winter heating season was mild. Heating costs were down 17.5 percent for the average customer compared to the year before. If it had been a cold season and heating bills were way up, the number of delinquencies likely would have been higher, he said.
“It’s a sign that the economy is still not in great shape, that a lot of people are still having a tough time,” he said.
“Again, we entirely understand that and want to help those customers in any way we can.”
He urges residents to contact the company when they first begin to get behind.