SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — After suspending late fees and power disconnections when the pandemic began, SMUD is now asking customers to pay up.
SMUD is carrying roughly $76 million in debt on its books. The energy company is dropping its moratorium on late fees and shutoffs.READ MORE: Stagg High Stabbing Suspect Anthony Gray Ordered To Undergo Mental Evaluation
“So we did that as part of our community goodwill to make sure that our customers didn’t have to worry about keeping the lights on,” said Lindsay Vanlaningham with SMUD.
The utility company says it has 600,000-plus customers, and of that total, about 204,000 are behind on payments — roughly a third.
A spokesperson says that number fluctuates but includes everything from multiple late payments to someone just missing their bill by a day. However, about 137,000 are past 30 days due dating back to pre-pandemic times.
The move follows a decline in COVID-19 cases and unemployment benefits, but some people believe the energy company needs to wait a little longer.
“Now is not the time because nothing’s changed with the virus,” said Prentiss Smith from the Greenhaven area. “And you got more like people going back to the beginning.READ MORE: Boosted Californians Getting COVID At Twice The Rate Of Those Vaccinated But Not Boosted
“I think they need a little bit more time to…some type of 60-day notice or 90-day notice to be able to get things together and be able to afford to pay their bills,” said Jerome Webb from the Natomas area.
Others say the grace period needs to wrap up.
“Well, they know the bills are coming every month,” said Herbert Cohen of Sacramento.
SMUD says it is trying to get the word out that collections will resume.
“Customers will begin hearing from us through email, letters and phone calls towards the end of the month,” Vanlaningham said. “Late fees will begin in March.”
If SMUD can’t reach customers then it’ll begin disconnecting services starting in April, but the company calls this a worst-case scenario.MORE NEWS: Applications Now Open For $10K Grants For Sacramento Artists
SMUD’s message for people who don’t think they can come up with the money: “[We] really, really encourage them to contact us.”