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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA) – State regulators moved quickly Tuesday to approve the suspension of monthly electric bills for customers of two utilities in areas hit hard by Hurricane Michael.

The state Public Service Commission approved Duke Energy Florida’s proposal to pause sending bills to customers in Bay, Gulf, Franklin, and Wakulla counties and Florida Public Utility Co.’s proposal to suspend sending bills in Jackson, Calhoun and Liberty counties.

The commission said the move will affect 28,523 Duke customers and about 13,000 Florida Public Utilities customers.

The utilities, which say customers will not face late fees or penalties, needed approval from regulators because of a state rule that requires utilities to bill customers monthly.

Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 as a Category 4 storm in Bay County and caused widespread damage as it plowed north into Georgia.

The utilities pointed to issues such as damage to homes and difficulty in delivering mail in seeking to suspend monthly bills. “Because so many homes and businesses, as well as roads, have been damaged or destroyed, mail delivery has been suspended in many areas,” Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham said in a statement Tuesday.

“Customers can now focus on recovery without worrying about their bill.”

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