With pandemic aid ending, some fear wave of PG&E disconnections and shutoffs in the New Year

More than 500,000 PG&E customers received disconnection notices since July with financial aid ending for many in January.

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Surge of power shutoffs feared for thousands in the New Year
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More than 500,000 PG&E customers received disconnection notices since July with financial aid ending for many in January.

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 500,000 PG&E customers have received disconnection notices since July of this year. Protections in place to provide financial assistance for many of these people will be lifted beginning in January. That has some fearing the worst.

Pastor Vickia Brinkley leads the True Faith Community Baptist Church in Antioch each week in Sunday prayer.

About 150 people join in weekly and up to 2,000 people attend virtually.

She says mounting PG&E bills are a growing concern in her congregation.

"By the time they come to us, they're pretty desperate. They know that they only have a few days to try to put the money together, or they're facing shut off," said Pastor Brinkley.

In the quarter beginning in July of this year, 542,000 PG&E customers received 15-day and 48-hour disconnection notices.

The state legislature and governor saved those people from losing their gas and electricity.

MORE: New rules means more eligible for retroactive EDD benefits; others need to return overpayments

That money will be made available at the end of this year.

So far, utilities have held off shutting off people's power.

"Because they know that if they don't, if they do shut, everyone they shut off, they won't get the money," said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network (TURN), one of the groups who advocated for the emergency money.

He says the reprieve is only temporary.

"But after the money has gone into the customer account, that's when we're going to see massive shut offs by PG&E," he said.

Neither Toney nor Pastor Brinkley know at this time how much money each distressed customer will be eligible to receive.

The pastor says most who come to her for help have past due bills in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

MORE: PG&E customers could be hit with rate hike of more than $760 over 2 years

"Our fear is we have seniors in the community, we have children in the community who are making the choice between keeping the power on in their home or buying the food that's necessary," said the pastor.

PG&E tells 7 On Your Side that out of the $1.2 billion in assistance, PG&E customers will get $219 million of that. That money will go to more than 300,000 qualifying customers in the form of bill credits.

"PG&E remains committed to providing support for customers financially impacted by the pandemic. We are here to help," the utility told us.

You can contact PG&E and TURN for assistance at their websites.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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