Fewer Iowans have overdue utility bills this year compared to last. The Iowa Utilities Board collected data at the end of March from the state’s largest utilities and found about 209,000 utility customers had past due accounts, down slightly from the same time last year.
Rob Hillesland of the Iowa Utilities Board says that happened despite the abnormally cold and long winter. “What the report as of the end of March, 2010, shows is that a little over 3000 fewer customers are owing past due utility balances and they’re owing a little bit lesser amount than a year ago,” Hillesland says.
The average past-due bill amounted to $164. Last year at the end of March, the average past-due bill was about $20 higher. Hillesland says the “static” price of natural gas could be a factor.
“It could also be an encouraging sign that some of these customers are doing a little better job of paying towards amounts that they owe towards the end of the year here before Iowa’s winter disconnection moratorium ends and that ends every year on April 2 unless it’s extended,” Hillesland says. “Maybe some people are also doing some energy efficiency things. That’s something the Iowa Utilities Board would like to see.”
The report covers the largest energy utilities which served about 1.8 million Iowa customers and which are regulated by the Iowa Utilities Board. About 37,000 customers were eligible for energy assistance grants from the state this winter season, nearly the same number as last year. The average past-due electric bill in those households was $260 this winter.
As of March 31, 2010 Iowans had racked up over $34 million in past-due heat and electric bills, but that is $4.5 million dollars less that what was unpaid and owed at this time a year ago.