SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Twenty-three local groups delivered a letter signed by 533 Utahns to Governor Gary Herbert calling for him to issue a moratorium on utility shut-offs due to non-payment and to require utilities to dismiss all utility bill debt incurred during the pandemic.
Organizers say governors in several states have barred utilities from shutting off essential services, but Utahns facing utility shut-offs during the pandemic are relying only on voluntary commitments from local utility companies like Rocky Mountain Power and Dominion Energy.
Letter signatories say they are concerned that the utility companies can lift the suspension of utility shutoffs at any time and that the ratepayers struggling the most during this pandemic will be burdened with insurmountable debt.
Organizers added that in Utah, unemployment claims since the start of COVID-19 have gone up 1173.43% compared to this time last year, and minorities and those in low-paying jobs have been most affected.
“Utilities are a critical expense for every household. With the end of the CARES Act, and during the hottest part of the year, many Utahns will be left facing the difficult choice of paying an energy bill or rent,” said June Hiatt, Organizer at Utah Renters Together. “This is the time for the state to act and support residents who are struggling financially with utility payments and ensure that all Utah families are able to keep the lights on.”
“Life, as a marginalized person is always uncertain, but in a pandemic, it’s especially important that we pay attention to the financial needs of our most vulnerable communities. This pandemic is a global crisis and should be treated as such. In a global crisis, marginalized communities (BIPOC, people with disabilities, immigrants, and queer/trans people) are more susceptible to losing financial, housing, and food security due to the shortage in financial resources. Financial, housing and food relief is imperative for the protection of those most vulnerable. The few people who have been able to find relief through unemployment benefits are now getting those benefits snatched from them with the expiration of the Pandemic Relief package. The least the state can do is offer relief through the lifting of utility bills, rent relief, food assistance, etc.,” said Ashley Finley, Doula, and Community Advocate.