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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Duke Ending Moratorium On Utility Shut-Offs

Duke Energy truck
Bill Rinehart
/
WVXU

Updated 10:12 a.m.

As many as 25,000 Duke Energy customers could face disconnected utilities starting Monday. Duke suspended shut-offs and late fees in March, when pandemic-related shutdowns threw many people out of work. Those suspensions end today.

Spokeswoman Sally Thelen says shutoffs won't begin immediately. It will depend on a customer's billing cycle. She says the soonest anyone will lose power will be in early September. Duke filled out the plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in June. "Your next billing cycle you may see - if you've not made any kind of arrangement with us - notification on your bill that you need to do so, and certainly if you don't do so, you could ultimately be disconnected."

Thelen says Duke will work with customers who are still struggling. "I think we would all admit that this pandemic that has gone longer than expected has worn on a lot of us. I think anytime we're able to team up with agencies to help ease a little bit of the burden."  

Thelen says customers have options. Duke is offering payment plans for customers who have fallen behind on their bills, and can direct people to assistance like LIHEAP, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

"The worst thing is for people to take a bill, and if they can't handle it right now to put it aside and ignore it, because then other things will happen afterwards," she says. "The key here is communication and reaching out to us to make sure we are able to work with them." 

She says the key is to contact Duke as soon as possible to make arrangements.

Thelen says Duke Energy serves about 870,000 customers in the region.

This story was updated to clarify when shutoffs will begin.