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Montana utilities forgoing power shutoffs during coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 7:29 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 16:18:46-04

NorthWestern Energy announced Wednesday it will suspend service disconnections for non-payment to blunt the economic pain of the coronavirus.

With higher electric bills and maybe less income for those staying home from work or school, the company will help its customers.

A spokesperson for Northwestern, Montana's largest utility, said energy usage increases when people are home, and some may have no work or fewer hours.

To avoid spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, businesses and other groups have been encouraging employees to work from home. Others businesses in the service industry have been forced to lay off workers because of mandated curtailments or shutdowns, including in Montana.

NorthWestern also suggests using the Low Income Energy Assistance Program and Montana Energy Share.

"We're here more during the day and our families are home. Students are home," said Jo Dee Black, Northwestern public relations specialist. "We understand this will be a difficult time for many of us financially also, and we just really want people to reach out to us."

Montana Dakota Utilities (MDU) and Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative (YVEC) in Huntley are among the other utility companies in Montana that will not disconnect customers.

“Some may be experiencing some financial hardships so we’re not doing any disconnects,” said Mark Hanson, MDU spokesman.

“It’s a challenge to obviously look out for best interests of the consumers and the members of our co-op,” said Brandon Wittman, YVEC CEO & General Manager.