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Connecticut utility regulators seek to reduce electric shutoffs

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Public utilities regulators in Connecticut have asked the state’s two largest electricity providers to take steps to reduce the number of winter shutoffs to households having trouble paying their bills.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in response to a surge in shutoffs over the past few years this week asked Eversource and United Illuminating to prepare a script that call centers would use when talking to customers to determine and recognize hardship eligibility, according to the Hartford Courant.

The board also asked the utilities to prepare single-page, straightforward explanations on hardship criteria and to hold meetings in neighborhoods where the people who need the information and assistance the most are located.

“It is evident that not all residential customers who struggle financially to pay their energy bills are aware of the full range of payment options and energy assistance programs available to them,” the board said.

The move was hailed by advocates.

“It’s an extraordinary decision. They heard us,” said lawyer Bonnie Roswig of the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford.

A spokeswoman for Eversource said the utility is reviewing the proposal, and pointed out it already has significant outreach to customers facing shutoffs.

A United Illuminating representative said the company was reviewing the proposal.