By Shereen Siewert

Tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents who are behind on their utility bills could face shutoffs as early as Thursday, as the annual winter moratorium on disconnections expires.

In March, the Public Service Commission voted unanimously to end the moratorium blocking utilities from disconnecting power, a policy put in place to help residents financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wisconsin is among 27 states with shut-off moratoriums expiring between now and June.

As of Feb. 15, more than 121,000 households met the criteria for disconnection statewide, according to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. In most cases, those customers are more than 60 days past due.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is urging electric, natural gas, and water utility customers with outstanding bills to make payment arrangements or apply for financial assistance as quickly as possible. More than 48,000 households fell behind on their bills since the start of the state’s statutory winter disconnection moratorium. The moratorium runs form Nov. 1 to April 15.

Past due balances surged 58 percent over 2019 figures, representing more than $309 million in payments owed, according to a PSC survey of Wisconsin utilities.

Many customers can apply for deferred payment plans by contacting their utility providers. State energy assistance is available to customers who meet certain income requirements. Click here to apply online or call 1-800-506-5596.