With so many shutdowns, layoffs and temporary furloughs across the state due to the coronavirus spread, many North Carolinians are stressing about their financials and wondering how they are going to pay their monthly bills. To help alleviate some of the burden, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order Tuesday, prohibiting utilities from disconnecting customers who are unable to pay during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order applies to electric, gas, water and wastewater services over the next 60 days and asks the utilities to give people at least six months to pay outstanding bills. It prohibits companies from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payments. Duke Energy, Dominion Energy and AT&T are among companies that have already announced policies to prevent shutoffs prior to the order.
Although the order does not include telecommunications companies such as phone, cable or internet service providers, the governor’s office is strongly urging the industry to follow the order. Cooper also encouraged banks not to change overdraft and late fees or other penalties and asked landlords to delay any evictions that are currently in the court system.
“This action is particularly important since [today] is the first of the month, and I know that’s a date many families fear when they can’t make ends meet,” Cooper said in a press release. “These protections will help families stay in their homes and keep vital services like electricity, water, and communications going as we stay at home.”