The moratorium stopping utilities from disconnecting power went into effect on March 24, 2020, but it is ending April 15, 2021. If you have utility bills that you have been unable to pay and cannot see how you will be able to pay them, then you are once again facing the possibility of a utility shutoff. There are a number of options that you can pursue to avoid this, including declaring bankruptcy.
Negotiate Agreement With Company
You can try to negotiate a payment plan with the utility company. Wisconsin Energy (WE) should be able to arrange a Deferred Payment Agreement with you. Wisconsin law requires them to offer you such an agreement if you can’t pay your bill in full. Of course, this means that you need to be able to adhere to the payment plan. That’s difficult if you’re out of work, or have other financial obligations demanding your attention.
Access Government Programs
The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) administers the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Public Benefits Energy Assistance Program. The goal of WHEAP and its related services is to help Wisconsin households reduce their energy burden. Because of COVID-19, it is now available throughout the year. For more information on WHEAP, call 1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947).
Appeal to Charities and Nonprofits
There are a number of charities that you can turn to for help with your utility bills. Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army are good places to start. There’s also a nonprofit organization dedicated to this work called Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund (KWW/CF) that is available throughout the state to low-income households. Finally, there are a number of community partnerships that you could explore.
Filing for bankruptcy is a big decision and if your primary concern is your utility bills, it is likely that a less radical solution can be found. When you have mounting medical debt, credit card debt, and other obligations along with your utility bills, then bankruptcy may be your best option. You can always consult with the professionals at Burr Law to clarify your situation. As far as utility shutoffs are concerned, here are some facts and resources for you.
Bankruptcy Filing Has Immediate Effect
As soon as you file a petition to begin the bankruptcy process, your utilities cannot be shut off for 20 days. It’s best if you complete all the bankruptcy paperwork at the same time that you submit the petition, but if you can’t, then be sure to do it within 14 days. That 20 day utility shutoff prevention period gives you almost 3 weeks of breathing room, and the professionals at Burr Law will be there to help you strategize your next moves.
Your Utilities During Bankruptcy
The utility company (WE Energies) will send you a deposit letter approximately 20 days after filing the bankruptcy petition. You are required to pay this deposit. If you do not pay it, then the utility company will shut you off. You need to pay the deposit and pay your gas and electric bill on time and in full for the next twelve months. At the end of that 12-month period, the utility company will refund your deposit with interest.
Your Utilities And Bankruptcy Discharge
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months and at the end of it, all your unsecured debts will be discharged. That means that any back money you owe to your utility company will be eliminated (along with credit card debt, for instance). So bankruptcy will definitely prevent your utilities from being cut off for 20 days; and it can provide you a way to get rid of the debt you owe.
For questions about utility shutoff or any other topic related to bankruptcy, contact the experienced bankruptcy attorneys of Burr Law Office today.