State utility regulators have extended protections for strapped consumers who can't pay their bills due to the coronavirus-induced economic downturn.

Many Minnesota electric and gas utilities voluntarily agreed in March to halt disconnections as jobs and paychecks evaporated.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Thursday voted to extend such measures, including waiving late fees, reconnection fees, interest and other penalties.

The PUC's extension, which was supported by consumer groups, runs through the end of Gov. Tim Walz's emergency order.

Walz has extended the emergency several times, and it's now set to end July 14. Utilities will file a "transition plan" after the peacetime emergency and before resuming disconnections.

"Extending these protections ensures many Minnesotans can keep their lights on and homes cool during the hot summer months," Katie Sieben, Minnesota PUC chairwoman, said in a statement. "I appreciate the utilities' willingness to implement these protections."

Minnesotans needing more information on the PUC's consumer protections or help setting up a payment plan can contact the PUC's Consumer Affairs Office at; or 651-296-0406 or 1-800-657-3782.