State officials keep executive order in place delaying utility shutoffs

Posted July 7, 2020 11:59 a.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2020 12:55 p.m. EDT

— The Council of State decided Tuesday not to overturn part of an executive order by Gov Roy Cooper, giving utility customers across North Carolina a few more weeks before their electric or water service can be cut off for non-payment.

The executive order expires July 31, but State Treasurer Dale Folwell wanted to give municipal-owned utilities the power to start collections immediately.

Folwell and groups that represent local governments say the four-month hold on service cutoffs has left many local utilities in the red. They say even people who haven't been financially hurt by the coronavirus pandemic have not been paying their bills.

Cooper said he doesn't plan to extend the executive order past it's expiration. The order waives only late fees and penalties, he said, and utilities are already working with customers on payment plans to catch up.

"This executive order didn’t remove debt that anybody owed. Everybody owes the full amount," Cooper said. "All this did was prevent the utilities from being cut off for a period of time."

Folwell contends there's no way people will be able to make up four months of missed payments. But the other members of the Council of State sided with Cooper, so the order stays in place for now.

Still, they urged the governor to issue guidelines for resuming regular billing at the end of the month.

They're also calling on the U.S. Senate to approve another pandemic relief package to provide help for strained city and county budgets.

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