Three congressional Democrats think so — and they want Congress to enshrine that right in law. Progressive Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Jamaal Bowman of New York introduced a resolution Thursday that calls on lawmakers to ban utilities from shutting off water, heating, cooling and other essential services.
While the resolution would merely be a “sentiment” of Congress, its sponsors are hoping to highlight just how bad the crisis has become amid rising energy costs and the end of pandemic relief.
About 1 in 6 households in the U.S. — 20 million families — are behind on their utility bills, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, a coalition representing state governments.
From January to June of this year, households had their power shut off almost 440,000 times across 15 states that made their rates available, according to preliminary data collected by the Center for Biological Diversity. That’s a dramatic increase compared to last year’s rates, the environmental group found.
While some states and utilities stopped disconnecting power during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, those moratoriums started to expire just as the price of natural gas climbed. Families now owe about $16 billion in late utilities bills, double pre-pandemic levels, according to NEADA.
“In the richest country the world has ever known, it is an outrage that millions of Americans struggle with utility insecurity, substandard and dangerous services, and inhumane shutoffs,” Tlaib said in a statement.
While most states have laws that prevent utilities from shutting off services because of unpaid bills during the winter, fewer than half have similar measures for the summer. And as climate change continues to fuel longer and more intense heat waves, shut-offs are becoming increasingly dangerous.
At least 1,300 people die a year in the U.S. due to extreme heat, according to federal data. And a recent study found that from 2008 to 2017, each additional day over 90 degrees Fahrenheit led to seven more deaths per 10 million adults.
The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps some families pay their power bills. While lawmakers have called for additional funding, the lion’s share of the program’s nearly $4 billion budget goes toward heating expenses. In fiscal 2019, only 8 percent of LIHEAP funds went toward cooling assistance.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Representative Rashida Tlaib (MI-12) released the following statement on H. Res. 888: “Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live with democracy, safety, peace, and human dignity. This resolution that ignores the existence of the Palestinian people brings us no closer to peaceful coexistence. It’s important to recognize that Palestinians also have a […]
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