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A regional collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Energy Insecurity Becomes A Concern As Utility Shut-Offs Resume

Across the country, states and utility providers implemented policies waiving shut-offs for non-payment in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Many of those policies are now expiring and raising concerns.
Across the country, states and utility providers implemented policies waiving shut-offs for non-payment in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Many of those policies are now expiring and raising concerns.

Many states introduced moratoriums to protect residents from having their utilities shut off for non-payment during the early days of the pandemic. But those moratoriums are coming to an end.

According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, nearly two million people in our region live in poverty, and that number is growing daily with the rise in unemployment.

That means hundreds of thousands of those households could have their utilities shut off if they can’t afford to pay their bills.

“There’s going to be a lot of people that are below the poverty line that will not have protection,” said Michael Thomas with the energy efficiency start-up Carbon Switch.

It released a report detailing how many families could face energy insecurity this year. He went on to say that number is likely to keep growing with the newly unemployed.

“When utilities shut off the power, people of color are more affected than white families,” Thomas added.

Some utility providers have created programs meant to help rate-payers facing past-due balances, but Thomas says those programs are often ineffective because most customers never hear about them.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

Copyright 2021 KUNR Public Radio. To see more, visit KUNR Public Radio.

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