Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III this week filed an emergency petition asking the Tennessee Public Utility Commission to prohibit the utilities it regulates from disconnecting service for nonpayment during the state of emergency invoked by Gov. Bill Lee.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis that has caused uncertainty for many Tennesseans. I urge the Tennessee Public Utility Commission to work quickly to keep citizens connected regardless of payment status during this state of emergency,” Lee said in a news release.

The Tennessee Public Utility Commission has been closely monitoring measures taken by its regulated private investor-owned utilities to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 while ensuring uninterrupted safe and reliable utility service, the release said.

Many utilities have already taken steps including suspension of disconnection for nonpayment, suspending or waiving late fees, and offering financial assistance and levelized or budget-billed programs.

The Public Utility Commission has also issued a formal request to its regulated public utilities, including gas, electric, water, and wastewater/sewer, to provide ongoing reports including measures to ensure the continuity of safe and reliable service.

“We all need to work together to get past this difficult time,” Slatery said in the news release.

“We commend the way the commission has already responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. This request ensures relief for Tennesseans from all utilities regulated by the commission, so they do not have to worry about losing their basic utility services because of circumstances far outside their control,” Slatery said.