Post by EPIC Sir Tinley on Aug 24, 2022 10:31:27 GMT -8
A ‘Tsunami of Shutoffs’: 20 Million US Homes Are Behind on Energy Bills
Surging electricity prices spur worst-ever crisis in late utility payments.
Adrienne Nice woke up early on the morning of July 25 to news she’d been dreading. The power company, Xcel Energy Inc., had shut off the electricity to the small Minneapolis apartment she shares with her teenage son, just as a heat wave was bearing down on the city.
Nice had been struggling financially ever since the pandemic hit, racking up more than $3,000 in past-due utility bills. The warnings she’d gotten on her monthly statement—“FINAL NOTICE” scrawled in big, bold letters—had prepared her to some degree, but it was still jarring to find the fridge dark and the air conditioner silent. With temperatures set to reach 95F (35C) in the coming days, she needed the power back on, and fast.
The Nice household is one of some 20 million across the country—about 1 in 6 American homes—that have fallen behind on their utility bills. It is, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (Neada), the worst crisis the group has ever documented. Underpinning those numbers is a blistering surge in electricity prices, propelled by the soaring cost of natural gas.
Nice, 45, is a housecleaner. Her work dried up almost overnight when Covid-19 swept through Minnesota in early 2020. Things are picking up again, but inflation is eating into the money she makes. Just filling up her old Saturn sedan to drive from house to house now costs about $50 a week.
She found it impossible to set aside enough money for utilities, especially as her power bill effectively doubled over the past year. A friend who used to live in the apartment along with her two kids moved out in mid-2021. But though Nice’s household is using less electricity, she’s still getting charged about the same amount per month—$244, on average. “I just don’t understand how electricity can be so high,” she says.
California’s PG&E Corp. has seen a more than 40% jump since February 2020 in the number of residential customers behind on payments. For New Jersey’s Public Service Enterprise Group, the total is up more than 30% for customers at least 90 days late—and that’s just since March.
The average price consumers pay for electricity surged 15% in July from a year earlier, the biggest 12-month increase since 2006. Regulation of electricity rates makes it hard for providers to immediately pass on higher fuel costs, so the recent hikes may be just the start.
In the earlier days of the pandemic, some states and utilities halted power disconnections, shielding customers like Nice who’d fallen on hard times. But those measures wound down just as inflation gathered steam. US households owe about $16 billion in late energy bills, double the pre-pandemic total, according to Neada. The average balance owed has climbed 97% since 2019, to $792. “The bills just aren’t affordable,” says Mark Wolfe, Neada’s executive director. “People on the bottom, they can’t pay this.”
For investor-owned US utilities, the financial repercussions of accumulating debt from unpaid customer bills are typically limited. That’s because state regulators often allow utilities to recover their losses by adding a charge for customers who are paying their bills, or taxpayers help pick up the tab.
In Nice’s case, her power was out for only three days; the nonprofit Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota helped her negotiate a payment plan with Xcel. Her experience is common: Utilities shut off customers only as a last resort, according to Xcel. About 80% of US utility customers who experience a shutoff will have service restored in a few days, Wolfe says. The remaining 20%, though, may be close to eviction or on the verge of homelessness.
Yes, I know, people have to vote smarter. Policy fuck-ups this massive aren't from bad luck. But still, making her pay student loans for those who went to college and can only make six figures is simply cruelty.
It's dumb. It's a one-time thing so it only helps certain people at this particular time.
More importantly it doesn't address the real issue, which is the ridiculously increasing cost of higher education over the last 20 or so years.
We (as a society) will take those crumbs and like it! Generations of dysfunctional culture and allowing the wrong people to run our governments have produced this less-than-adequate result and countless others. We have one major political party, mostly composed of people who aren't interested in doing significantly more for regular Americans, which also has more than a few people who are vehemently opposed to doing significantly more - on principle or on the basis that more resources devoted to regular people will mean less resources devoted to them and their big donors.
The other major political party, almost completely composed of people who are only interested in serving themselves and their big donors, is sprinkled with a relative few "true believers" in fiscal conservativism, "small, limited government," religious extremism, etc.
And the general public is all over the place, ranging from people who want publicly funded higher education to people who don't even want people to go to college "where they will be taught to be God-hating, America-hating communists."
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2022 12:23:06 GMT -8 by Bearcat
Like Georgia's Hope scholarship, which is funded by lottery proceeds?
Incomprehensible amounts of money are spent by this country in foreign aid. But you're focused on Americans getting a little bit of student loan debt relief.
To be fair, I (at least) have major issues with the foreign aid as well. In fact, even more so especially as regards Ukraine considering all of the Hunter nonsense.
Oh, virtually everyone on the right does when called out on their (sometimes even racist) crabs in a bucket behavior. But the fact is that they don't complain about foreign aid nearly as much or as vigorously as they complain about public money being spent on other Americans (at least on certain other Americans).