As the coronavirus outbreak continues to shutter schools and businesses throughout the region, utility providers are shifting business practices to provide aid to those in need.

On Monday, the State Corporation Commission directed regulated electric, natural gas and water companies in Virginia to suspend service disconnections until the coronavirus outbreak subsides. 

The 60-day temporary moratorium on disconnects provides immediate relief for any customer, residential and business, who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a news release.

In taking this action, the commission order takes judicial notice of the ongoing public health emergency related to the spread of the coronavirus. The commission recognizes the current situation continues to evolve and may take further action, if necessary.

Dominion Energy announced Friday that it would be suspending all disconnections for nonpayment. “Our customers should not have to worry about losing service during this critical time,” Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox said.

In Manassas, city officials said they were suspending all water and electric shutoffs for nonpayment, but asked that residents in need call city hall to discuss the situation first.

As of Monday morning, Virginia had 51 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency last week.

INTERNET ACCESS

With schools closed for a minimum of two weeks across the state, any instruction possible will be moved online, making the need for internet access greater than ever. But service providers did not offer any information on possible assistance lasting beyond the initial 60 days.

Comcast and Cox are offering additional services to area residents.

Comcast is offering low-income families 60 days of their “Internet essentials” package for free — it typically costs $9.95 per month. Meanwhile, internet speeds for that service will be upgraded for new and existing customers. 

Cox also announced that it would not be terminating services and would waive late fees for residential or small business customers over the next 60 days. It says it is also opening all Cox WiFi hotspots to the public.

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