February 4, 2021

There Could Be an Energy Bill Debt Tsunami, Too

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, 34 states ordered mandatory moratoriums on utility shutoffs to help keep families struggling to pay their bills in their homes. Yet despite the need never dissipating, most states eventually lifted their utility shutoff moratoriums.

Even in households that still have their heat on and water running, millions of customers are racking up significant debts as unpaid bills mount, Bloomberg CityLab reported. And advocates worry that shutoffs, like evictions, are just being kicked down the road.

A new economics working paper from Duke University released last week underscored the public health dimension of their concerns, finding that the patchwork of shutoff moratoria that did exist significantly reduced infections and mortality rates.

“Ensuring that people have access to housing and essential services for water and electricity within their housing is necessary in any adequate government response to the housing precarity created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers wrote. 

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