'It's hard': More CPS customers are defaulting on bills amid hot weather and rising gas prices - San Antonio Express-News

‘It’s hard’: More CPS customers are defaulting on bills amid hot weather and rising gas prices – San Antonio Express-News

In the early days of the pandemic, CPS Energy stopped cutting electricity to customers with unpaid bills. Since utilities resumed home disconnection at the beginning of this year, utilities have struggled to collect.

The total amount of past due bills is rising.

CPS rate payers owe city-owned utilities $162 million in bills at least 30 days after the due date. This figure jumped 60 percent from about 101 million dollars in This time last year.

CPS officials expected that the resumption of disconnection this year will cause most customers with overdue bills to either pay what they owe or set up a payment plan. But near-record temperatures this month prevented CPS from separating eligible households because the tool does not cut customers’ power during heat waves.

“He’s been a bit slow in resuming the disconnect,” interim CEO Rudi Garza said at last week’s CPS board meeting. “We will have a standstill during the summer due to the heat.”

CPS customers become eligible for separation if they do not contact CPS to set up a payment plan, and if their bills are six to nine weeks late. But extreme weather is delaying that.

CPS has received $20 million in federal funding through the US Bailout Act, which it will use to liquidate the balances of several client accounts.

Garza said 26,000 customers defaulted on their bills in April, but more are falling behind each month.

The average CPS residential bill in April was $136, up 20 percent from the previous year. Most of this increase was due to a jump in the price of natural gas, which CPS supplies to homes and uses as fuel as power plants. Hitting the spot price of natural gas $8.21 per unit Last week, its price nearly tripled a year ago, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Garza said the higher cost of natural gas, which CPS passes on to customers, “is driving more people into past due credits.”

And recent near-standard temperatures — which drive customers to turn on the air conditioner and use more electricity — are raising bills, too. CPS electric sales were from February through April 4 percent higher From what the tool expects, as a result of the weather.

Because of that, CPS is now “expecting more bad debt,” Chief Financial Officer Corey Kuczynski said during the meeting.

“It doesn’t look great,” he said. “That’s why the team (Vice President of Customer Strategy Deanna Hardwick) is going to the extra mile and pushing to try and get people involved in the payment plans.”

CPS officials urged customers who are late in paying utility bills to visit CPS Client Shows To find help with billing or start a payment plan to avoid disconnection. The next facility show is Thursday at the West Education Center on Enrique Barrera Parkway. Another will follow on June 8 at the Holy Eucharist Catholic Church on the north side.

“We still have some work to do to harm people,” Garza said. “it’s hard.”

diego.mendoza-moyers@express-news.net

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