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PennPIRG raises alarm about potential utility shut-offs for 800,000 Pennsylvanians

Calls on legislature to take action to protect consumers and businesses from threat of shut off in next few weeks
For Immediate Release

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pennsylvania state moratorium banning utilities from shutting off essentials such as electricity, gas, water, and telecommunications could end soon. To ensure that Pennsylvanians facing the double whammy of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the recession don’t have further burdens, PennPIRG is calling for the legislature to approve allocating $150 million from Pennsylvania’s remaining CARES Act funds to reimburse utility companies on behalf of ratepayers who cannot pay. The policy to freeze utility shut offs has been in place since March 2020 to protect Pennsylvanians amid the economic shutdown which put many out of work. As of May, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 13.1%

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission narrowly rejected an effort to stop the moratorium last week on a tie vote. The legislature could vote as early as this week to allocate some or all of Pennsylvania’s remaining CARES Act money. If the legislature does not allocate the necessary funds to assist residents and businesses, countless Pennsylvanians could be vulnerable to losing access to their utilities.

In response, Emma Horst-Martz, PennPIRG’s Campaign Associate, made this statement: 

With the coronavirus still raging across much of the country, Pennsylanians should be able to focus on keeping their families healthy and safe. They shouldn’t have to worry about losing electricity or water as we begin what promises to be a long, hot summer. 

PennPIRG appreciates Pennsylvania’s utilities’ compliance with the moratorium over the past few months. However, as we work toward recovery, it is imperative that consumers are protected from utility shutoffs, especially with so many more homebound people than usual. The recently unemployed are looking for new jobs. Many of those still with jobs are working from home. Schools are closed for the summer and  child care is far less accessible, so children are spending a lot of time in those homes that could lose power or running water. With increasing heat waves, electricity for fans and air conditioning is a critical health need. 

 

I urge our state leaders to take decisive action to protect the 800,000 Pennsylvanians and 55,000 businesses that are at risk of service termination. The state legislature could quickly address this threat by directing $150 million with funds from Pennsylvania’s remaining portion of the federal CARES Act. That’s what it’s there for. We owe it to our neighbors to help them out in their time of need.

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