CONSUMER CATCH-UP: Paper check stimulus payments can take up to 20 weeks, CPUC aims to lower energy bills during shelter in place, and FCC, FTC threaten to cut off providers who facilitate robocalls

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Direct deposit stimulus checks expected mid-April; paper checks may take up to 20 weeks

The federal government expects to make stimulus payments to those with direct deposit within the next two weeks, but paper checks could take up to 20 weeks, according to a memo from the House Ways and Means Committee and obtained by the Associated Press.

Direct deposits to Americans who filed 2018 or 2019 tax returns with direct deposit banking information will begin in mid-April, likely the week of April 13.

On May 4, the IRS will begin issuing paper checks to those who have not provided such information. With the checks being issued at 5 million per week, that means it could take up to 20 weeks (around mid-August) for some Americans to receive their payments.

Most Americans do not have to do anything to receive the stimulus money; it will be sent directly to them via direct deposit, check, or Social Security payment accounts. However, the IRS is working on an internet portal that will allow people to change or update their mailing addresses and provide direct deposit information. The IRS expects the portal to be ready in late April or early May.

CPUC moves to help reduce Californians' energy bills during shelter-in-place

With many Californians facing higher energy bills due to staying at home, the California Public Utilities Commission is taking action to help them lower their bills.

"Residential electric usage has increased 15 to 20 percent in recent weeks compared to the same period last year. The CPUC is taking action to ensure that this does not become an added hardship for people who have lost their jobs or are otherwise suffering economically due to COVID-19," said CPUC President Marybel Batjer.

The first action by the CPUC is to use the California Climate Credit to lower energy bills. The credit is usually provided twice a year; the first application for 2020 will be on April bills. Energy bills will be lowered by $20 to $60, depending on the utility. PG&E has already confirmed its customers will be receiving the credit on their bills.

The California Climate Credit stems from state-mandated payments to the utility made by power plants, natural gas providers and other large industries in order to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. The credit to customers comes from those payments.

The second action by the CPUC is to ensure that everyone who qualifies for the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program, which can reduce bills by 20 to 35 percent. "Many people who have recently lost their job due to COVID-19 will be eligible for the program," the CPUC says on its website. Customers must contact their utilities to enroll in the program.

The CPUC has already ordered "all CPUC-regulated energy, water, sewer, and communications providers to halt customer disconnections for non-payment. Utilities must also restore service to those whose service was disconnected prior to the CPUC's March 17, 2020 order."

FCC, FTC threaten to cut off providers who allow coronavirus scam robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission have demanded that service providers cut off robocallers who are perpetrating coronavirus-related scams.

The commissions specifically warned three gateway providers, including Connexum of Orange, California, who are allowing scam robocalls that originate overseas. They warned the companies that unless they cut off the robocallers in the next 48 hours, other phone companies would be allowed to block all traffic coming from those providers.

"These phone companies need to cut off this traffic and protect consumers from these scams. The choice is simple: Move forward as responsible network providers or see themselves cut off from the phone system," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Consumers receiving scam robocalls should consider filing a complaint with the FCC at www.fcc.gov/complaints. Consumers should also review the FCC's tips for protecting yourself against malicious robocalls: www.fcc.gov/robocalls.



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