The Australian Energy Regulator will reintroduce consumer protections that will protect Queensland households and small businesses from having their power shut off during the extended COVID-19 lockdown.
Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said those protections have previously saved thousands of Queenslanders from having their power disconnected throughout the pandemic.
“We know they worked. In 2020, disconnections dropped dramatically, down 91% since the start of the pandemic. They ended on June 30 thanks to Queensland’s strong economic recovery,” he said.
“But with the Delta variant forcing this lockdown extension, consumers need those protections again. So they are back.”
The measures will mean that residential and small business energy customers in Queensland’s lockdown areas will be protected from having their power disconnected or being referred to debt collection agencies, and they will be offered a payment plan or hardship arrangement.
The protections would support Queensland’s most vulnerable households, de Brenni said.
“They mean they won’t have their power turned off, and they won’t be referred to debt collectors. There is real pain out there,” he said.
“Figures show that 13,000 Queensland families are severely impacted by COVID-19 and in electricity debt.”
The lockdown in Queensland’s south east, which applies to 11 local government areas, is scheduled to end on Sunday. It was initially expected to end on Tuesday, but was extended by five days after the state recorded 13 new local cases of COVID-19 on Monday.
The state government has announced it would also provide $5,000 payments to Queensland’s small and medium businesses that have been affected by the current COVID-19 lockdown and lockdowns in other states.
Disaster payments would also be made available to sole traders, de Brenni noted.
“We are going hard and going fast with this lockdown but taking care of workers and businesses at the same time,” he said.
This article was first published by The Mandarin.