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Politics

Some utilities are pausing payments during coronavirus outbreak - one lawmaker wants them waived

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With a long list of public and private closures in Michigan people are out of work for the foreseeable future.

That raises questions about how they’ll pay for everything from rent to the electric bill.

Consumers Energy and DTE have both announced plans to help people who can’t keep up with their payments. The utilities are suspending shutoffs for low-income and senior customers through April 5th.

Consumers spokesperson Katie Carey said they may also work with other customers struggling to make payments.

“We want to assess each individual situation and make the appropriate decision for our customers,” she said.

But, she said, customers will continue to accrue energy usage charges as normal.

But Demcratic State Representative Abdulluh Hammoud said the move could leave people with huge bills after the crisis has ended.

“I mean what great is it if I say hey we’ll pause your mortgage for two months but then you owe me twice your mortgage payment in the following month. Who can afford that?”

Hammoud said he’d like to see payments waived on everything from rent, mortgage, and even phone bills during the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s literally imagine no payment for this next month, two months, whatever it might be. Then you can start as you were when you’re back to work, things start opening up again, and things are safe and secure.”

Hammoud said he has not introduced legislation to that effect and he’s not sure where a suspension of payments would have to come from - the state or federal government.

Governor Whitmer signed an executive order today extending unemployment benefits to residents impacted by the coronavirus - but Hammoud said while that is a good thing it likely won’t be enough to cover all of people’s expenses.