Covid-19 — also known as the “corona virus” — has suddenly left tens of millions of Americans out of work. In addition to concerns about health and safety, many folks around the country are suddenly feeling the impacts and pressure of the possibility — or maybe even the reality already — of job loss and the loss of a (or the) source of income for their household.

Thankfully, many companies have stepped up to provide financial assistance to their customers. Some banks are deferring interest payments while other companies are temporarily stopping the practice of reporting late payments to credit bureaus. The federal government is working on providing financial assistance in the coming weeks, as well.

What if I can’t pay my electric / gas bill?

As a general rule of thumb, the best thing to do when you can’t pay your bill — whether it’s for your electricity or your mortgage — is to pick up the phone and open up a line of communication. Call and explain your situation and see what kind of arrangements can be made with your utility.

Also, you want there to be a record that you called and explained your hardship. Make sure to write down the day/time of your call, as well as the name of the customer service representative that spoke to you.

State of Emergencies and Utility Shutoffs

Many states and local municipalities have declared a “State of Emergency” due to the outbreak of Covid-19. One condition of such a declaration being made by your governor or mayor is that it now may be illegal for your utility to turn off your service (verify with your local utility!).

This doesn’t mean that you should ignore your energy provider if they’re trying to reach out to you to talk about a late payment, but it does mean that you have an extra peace of mind if you’re unable to come to a resolution.

Check with your utility company and local government to see if a state of emergency has been declared for your area due to Covid-19. Ask if service shutoffs are temporarily suspended.