The Army has suspended its utility billing program for privatized housing units, effective March 1. That means that at least temporarily, soldiers won’t be paying money for using extra utilities, or receiving rebates for using less utilities.

Privatized housing companies “will not bill residents, pay out rebates, charge related administrative fees or pursue out-of-pocket utility payments,” said Heather Hagan, Army spokeswoman. The program is suspended until further notice. Residents will continue to get utility bills, but they will be “mock” bills.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Army Secretary Mark Esper said that within days of a Feb. 13 hearing about problems with privatized housing, Army leaders met with leaders of a number of privatized housing companies. Among other things, they agreed to suspend their energy programs on Army installations, he said.

The services’ utilities policies are based on the Defense Department’s policy to provide incentives to residents in privatized housing to decrease utility consumption and save energy.

The Army’s program calculated a baseline average usage for homes, then gave a rebate or credit to those using less than the baseline amount, or billed the resident who uses more than the baseline average.

Further information was not available about why the Army suspended its utility billing program. According to DoD spokeswoman Heather Babb, the Army’s suspension of its utility billing program is not part of a DoD requirement, and the DoD policy regarding utility billing in privatized housing remains unchanged.

Officials have been holding town hall meetings and other forums over the last few weeks to hear residents’ concerns related to their military housing. The meetings and discussions were required by DoD and the services in the wake of reports and testimony by military families about mold, mice infestations and other problems in military housing, and their difficulties in getting anyone to address them.

Over the years, various families from all branches of services living in privatized housing have raised concerns about their utility billing.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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