As utility shutoff moratoriums expire, Americans brace for loss of essential services

Utility shut offs are imminent around the country because COVID-19 shutoff moratoriums are expiring

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More than 179 million people around the United States could soon lose their basic necessities like water and electricity due to unpaid utility bills according to The Washington Post.

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The publication released a report detailing how the pandemic impacted the blooming crisis, how families are coping, and what the government is doing about it.

When the coronavirus first hit back in the spring, though many folks lost their jobs, states stepped in to help to make sure residents weren’t without basic utilities. But after almost seven months, most of that aid has come to an end. According to the report, only the District of Columbia and 21 other states have continuing bans on disconnecting utilities.

(Adobe stock photo)

“The people who were struggling before are struggling even more,” said the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association executive director, Mark Wolfe. According to the NEADA, electric and gas debt alone is at risk of exceeding $24.3B by the end of the year.

Kenneth Parson, 62, of Griffin, Ga. is a diabetic who lost power in July after falling behind on his payments. Parson needs power in order to refrigerate the insulin he uses to treat his diabetes but his wife says that still didn’t stop the power company from turning off his service.

“They said they couldn’t do nothing for him,” said his wife, Cheryl, 65. “It peeved me off.”

Some states are trying to work with their residents offering payment plans in order to help them keep their utilities on. Lobbyists are calling for states like Pennsylvania to offer payment plans instead of just cutting off service. The state is currently $403M in arrears.

Pennsylvania ultimately decided to continue its scheduled disconnections.

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“All the dominoes are about to fall,” said Elizabeth Marx, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, a company that advocates for low-income residents in need. “When you lift the moratorium, those households that are struggling will be worse off.”

Last week, according to Dept. of Labor statistics, 837,000 Americans filed for unemployment.

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