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AZTEC — Three large New Mexico utilities are asking the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission for regulatory assistance as revenues have been cut during the coronavirus pandemic.

New Mexico Gas Company, El Paso Electric and Public Service Company of New Mexico have asked the PRC to allow them to create a regulatory asset to keep track of the financial impact the coronavirus has had on them.

A regulatory asset is approved by a governing body like the PRC and permits the utility to defer those costs on its balance sheet.

The three utilities are asking for this assistance because many customers are unable to pay their bills, and the utilities are foregoing disconnections or penalties related to nonpayment.

Read more: Meetings roundup: City councils discuss coronavirus-related business restrictions

People who have lost their jobs, and businesses that have temporarily closed due to the virus are not necessarily paying their utility bills.

Commissioner Stephen Fischmann said people are falling behind on their bills and social distancing requirements are carrying on for longer than initially anticipated.

“They’re going to be real costs to a utility in terms of collecting bills and it’s going to have an impact on their operations,” Fischmann said.

Others are reading: Here are the latest coronavirus updates from San Juan County, Four Corners region

He requested that the PRC discuss the virus’ impact on utility finances during an April 29 meeting that was conducted via Zoom. There will likely be more discussions during future PRC meetings as the commission works to determine the best way to address the economic impacts the pandemic has had on utilities.

“I think over the next month we’re going to see this become very real,” Fischmann said. “We’re better off getting ahead of it than by letting it catch us by surprise.”

Commissioner Valerie Espinoza said she highly supports looking into orders that will help utilities. She mentioned flexible payment plans to help both the customers and the utilities.

“The customers are the ones that are going to need the help during this time,” Espinoza said.

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Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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