Utility Shutoff Freezes Among Colorado COVID-19 Relief Measures

Denver Water said it will not shut off service while communities deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Denver Water said it will not shut off service while communities deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Joe Cheng / Flickr
As the global economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic begins to deepen, local governments and utilities in Colorado are taking steps to provide some relief for people who may struggle to pay their bills in the weeks and months ahead.

Xcel Energy, Colorado's largest provider of electricity and natural gas, announced on Sunday, March 15, that it will not disconnect service to any of its residential customers "until further notice."

"We want to assure our customers that as part of our commitment to the communities we serve, we're here to support them during this difficult time," Brett Carter, Xcel's chief customer and innovation officer, said in the announcement. "We will work with our customers, our communities and government leaders to ensure the lights and heat stay on and that those we serve are cared for and protected."

Denver Water, which serves 1.4 million customers in the city and many of its suburbs, also says that it will not shut off anyone's service for the time being. The two utilities are among dozens across the country announcing shutoff freezes as millions of Americans face the prospect of layoffs, lost wages and extended periods of self-quarantine at home.

Colorado's two largest Internet service providers, CenturyLink and Comcast, have agreed to uphold the "Keep Americans Connected Pledge," a set of voluntary measures proposed last week by the Federal Communications Commission. The pledge calls for a sixty-day freeze on service disconnections, the waiving of late fees and an increase in the number of wi-fi hotspots available to customers.

Today, March 16, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock also joined a growing number of local officials across the country in ordering a halt to eviction proceedings during the outbreak. "Now is not the time to be evicting people from their housing," Hancock said in a press conference. "We are temporarily redeploying our sheriff's deputies away from evictions to other areas of need within the department."

A spokesperson for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, which performs about 400 evictions per month, says that Sheriff Tyler Brown is considering a similar move, and could make an announcement later today.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chase Woodruff is a staff writer at Westword interested in climate change, the environment and money in politics.
Contact: Chase Woodruff