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VA's New Utility Cutoff Law in Effect

November 8, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. - A new law is in effect in Virginia that gives qualified people a brief break when they are faced with having electricity or water shut off for late payments. It applies only when someone in the household has a serious medical condition.

Christie Marra, an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, worked with utility companies, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) and others to get the law passed. She describes the guidelines about who qualifies for a reprieve from utility cut-offs with what is known as a "documented serious medical condition."

"A physical or psychiatric condition that requires medical intervention to prevent further disability, loss of function or death. So, you need to be under a doctor's care for a condition that is ongoing."

She says the new law covers a variety of cases, and offers a couple of examples.

"Someone who is required to take medication regularly to control his or her condition and needs that medication to be refrigerated. Someone who has a serious medical condition that is exacerbated by extremely high or extremely low temperatures."

A "Serious Medical Condition Certification Form" also must be completed by a physician and filed with the customer's utility company. The company may then give up to a 60-day grace period, although the customer is still not off the hook for the bill, and can make payment arrangements with the utility company. Marra suggests it's best to get the form filed before any problems arise with payments to ensure a smooth process.

The "Serious Medical Condition Certification Form" is available on the SCC website at www.scc.virginia.gov

More information is at tinyurl.com/893jqfg

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA