Quantcast
Connect with us

‘National human disaster’ looms as utility shutoff moratoriums come to an end across US

Published

on

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) participates in the House Democrats' news conference on healthcare reform in the Capitol on July 20, 2017. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Millions of Americans “shouldn’t have to forgo more meals just to keep the lights on so their children can attend remote classes.”

With state and local moratoriums on utility shutoffs set to expire and many American families continuing to fall behind on mounting bills, a new report estimates that millions of households in the U.S. will be at risk of losing access to electricity by October, generating renewed calls for Congress to enact a nationwide moratorium on utility shutoffs.

ADVERTISEMENT

Energy efficiency advocates at Carbon Switch analyzed data provided by public utility commissions (PUCs) as well as data on unemployment and energy spending to understand the extent to which expiring moratoriums are likely to impact U.S. households as the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis drag on.

In the months since March, when governors and PUCs first began passing moratoriums, a growing number of states have allowed their bans on utility shut-offs to expire. According to the analysis, more than 76 million households will lack protections by October 1st.

The map below depicts the number of unemployed people in each state who are at risk of utility shutoffs on October 1, when several moratoriums expire.

utilityshutoffs_0.png

In the states where moratoriums have expired or are set to expire soon, roughly 10 million households are below the federal poverty line and another 9.5 million people are unemployed, rendering those Americans particularly vulnerable to energy insecurity, according to the report.

ADVERTISEMENT

Furthermore, the researchers note that in some states, up to one-third of customers can’t make payments. In North Carolina, for instance, over 1.3 million households fell behind on utility bills but were spared from disconnection due to the governor’s emergency order banning utility shutoffs.

If such moratoriums are allowed to expire across the U.S., “tens of millions of homes may soon go dark,” as Luke Savage put it in Jacobin.

The report explains the varying shutoff policies at the country’s ten biggest utility companies, which are sumarized in the table below.

ADVERTISEMENT

utilityshutoffs2.png

The loss of power can have deadly repercussions—such as heat stroke, carbon monoxide poisoning, freezing, and fires—and the report authors point out that utility shutoffs have a disproportionate impact on nonwhite households, which are more likely to suffer from poverty and its attendant consequences.

ADVERTISEMENT

The report includes the heartbreaking story of an elderly woman in Arizona who passed away from a heat-related illness after her local utility cut her power. “She had been paying $125 per week—all she could afford on a fixed income—but it wasn’t enough,” the authors write. “The utility shut her power off because her balance was $176.84 in the negative.”

The environmental and climate justice program of the NAACP argued that every utility-related tragedy is “preventable and we cannot, in good conscience, stand by and watch more when we have the means to ensure access for all.”

The report authors conclude by arguing that the millions of Americans who lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19 “shouldn’t be subjected to more pain. They shouldn’t lose more of their dignity. They shouldn’t have to forgo more meals just to keep the lights on so their children can attend remote classes.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Last month, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, tweeted: “The House-passed HEROES Act places a moratorium on utility shutoffs until four months after the end of this national emergency.”

Pallone was echoing the calls made by more than 830 social justice groupsover 100 lawmakers, and more than 500 faith leaders who—as Common Dreams previously reported—have demanded a national moratorium on utility shutoffs for the duration of the pandemic in order to guarantee access to services essential to survival.

ADVERTISEMENT

As fears mount that utility companies will resume shutoffs, similar calls continue. In Jacobin, Savage argued that “as Congress gets set to negotiate the next round of stimulus and pandemic relief, a national moratorium on utility shutoffs must be front and center alongside fresh cash payments and other supports.”

“The alternative,” Savage wrote, “is nothing short of a national human disaster.”

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s not only power that worries advocates. Water, perhaps the most basic human need, is crucial in the fight against coronavirus.

“How the hell are you supposed to wash your hands… when your water has been shut off?” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asked in April.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump mask-shames CBS reporter Lesley Stahl — and ominously warns ‘much more to come’

Published

on

President Donald Trump has spent months belittling people for wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His anti-mask attitude reportedly resulted in White House and campaign staff not wearing masks so as to avoid angering their boss.

And Trump has repeatedly attacked Joe Biden for wearing facial coverings -- even after the president was hospitalized for COVID-19.

But on Tuesday, Trump dramatically shifted his position and mask-shamed CBS "60 Minutes" reporter Lesley Stahl, posting video of her not wearing a mask while Trump was.

Trump included video of their interview in his tweet:

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump’s strategy against Joe Biden and the coronavirus is to increasingly accept defeat: columnist

Published

on

In an op-ed for the New York Times this Tuesday, Ross Douthat says that the Trump administration is beginning to see the writing on the wall as Election Day grows closer.

According to Douthat, Trump's 2020 campaign "has been stuck toggling back and forth between two very different narratives."

"One seeks to replay the last campaign, portraying Joe Biden as the embodiment of a failed establishment (hence all the references to his 47 years in Washington) who will sell out American interests to China as soon as he’s back in power," he writes.

The other is Trump apparently insistence in running against Joe Biden as if he's Bernie Sanders. While a skilled campaigner could have weaved these narratives together, their contradictions are more obvious when coming from Trump. "The resulting incoherence just feeds his tendency to return to old grudges and very online grievances, as though he’s running for the presidency of talk radio or his own Twitter feed," writes Douthat.

Continue Reading
 

2020 Election

WATCH: Lincoln Project targets Pennsylvania voters with devastating new ad as Trump visits the state

Published

on

In a new ad released Tuesday for The Lincoln Project, the narrator says, "There's mourning in Pennsylvania. Today, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from a deadly virus Donald Trump ignored. Praising China's response instead of heeding the warnings, then blaming them to cover his own failures."

The ad continues, "With the economy in shambles, people in Pennsylvania are still out of work. One of the worst economies in decades."

The ad was released on the same day President Donald J. Trump planned to visit the state.

Watch the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUtFHhd9G5k

Continue Reading
 
 
Democracy is in peril. Invest in progressive news. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free. LEARN MORE