LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a wide-spread moratorium on utility shutoffs. But that moratorium ends on April 1 and it could mean millions across the state could have their electric, water, or gas turned off.
As a result desperate calls are coming from many homes looking for assistance on their utility bills.
“COVID has wreaked havoc on our community and they are upset beyond belief,” Kelly Ernst Warner, Northern Lancaster Hub Coordinator, said. “They’re saying ‘what are we going to do, how are we going to pay for rent and our utilities’.”
Northern Lancaster Hub is a social service organization in Ephrata.
Ephrata Borough has its own utility service and does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, but the borough is also set to resume utility shutoffs on April 1.
In Ephrata, 183 accounts meet a shutoff criteria.
“There are people who are on the list with the borough currently who have never needed assistance before and who frankly don’t even know who to ask for help,” Ernst Warner said.
The Northern Lancaster Hub is one of the organizations urging customers behind on bills to reach out for help.
“We are connecting people with the Emergency Rental Assistance Program,” Ernst Warner said.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program can help those behind on utility payments.
Last month, Governor Tom Wolf said a million customers state wide could face shutoffs on April 1.
The press secretary for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, said there are layers of assistance available for those who fall behind on their bills.
Hagen-Frederiksen said most calls for help should start with utility providers.
“There’s no magic wand and no one size fits all solution,” Hagen-Frederiksen said. “It’s really driven by the conversation that you have with the utility about what your circumstances are.”