Everyone is worried these days about the coronavirus — if they have it, if they don’t how they can keep from getting it, what happens if the get sick. But many people are faced with coping with deep anxieties about whether they will lose their jobs, and if they have, how they will pay their bills.
In this crisis, no one should have to worry about having their electricity or water shut off, or their phone and internet service, because they can’t pay their bills. Across the country, utilities are pledging not to shut off services for lack of payment for the foreseeable future.
In response to this concern, the North Carolina Utilities Commission recently ordered all regulated utilities — including electric (such as Duke Energy and Dominion Energy), gas, water and wastewater utilities — to immediately suspend service disconnections and late payment fees. While this is a significant move, it’s not enough, as it is somewhat limited in scope and does not apply to unregulated electric cooperatives, municipal electric utilities or telecom and internet service providers.
All utilities, not just those regulated by the state, should be required to suspend disconnections, and should also either voluntarily or be ordered to immediately restore service to those who have been disconnected in recent weeks, indefinitely suspend late payment fees, and notify customers of the policy changes through all available means.
Appalachian Voices has joined with more than 25 social justice, labor, environmental, clean energy and other public interest groups to call on the administration of Governor Roy Cooper and the NC Utilities Commission to take immediate action to protect all North Carolinians who are most vulnerable to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Visit our new webpage to find out if your electricity provider is instituting “no shut off” policies.
Appalachian Voices has also signed onto a national letter, with 576 other organizations, demanding urgent government action to address electric and water utility shut-offs and access issues exacerbated by the coronavirus national emergency.