As many of you know, we have been long-time partners with The Utility Reform Network (TURN) that advocates for people over utility company profits.
We join with TURN now to support Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) whose bill, SB 598, will reduce shut offs for our elders and those with life-threatening conditions requiring the use of supportive machines. Shut offs have skyrocketed among struggling households, no matter the life circumstances of the people involved.
Over 2 million Californians were affected in 2015—most of whom are children. Currently, shutoffs for non-payment can be used as a debt collection strategy by utility companies even if a member of the household is dependent upon life-support equipment at home. These disconnects lead to worsening medical conditions, threats to safety, housing displacement and homelessness, not to mention undue stress among those affected.
SB 598 will prohibit shutoffs for residents with life-threatening medical conditions, providing increased protections to the most medically vulnerable families. This bill also require the CPUC to adopt rules to reduce shutoffs by 50% by 2021; moving California closer to universal utility service for all by requiring the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to develop policies, rules, or regulations to reduce gas and electric service disconnects for nonpayment by residential customers and adopt shutoffs as a metric in order to measure utility service reliability, public safety and affordability.
SB 598 has passed the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee UNANIMOUSLY. However, there will be opposition ahead. Now is the time for us to be heard. It will come to the Senate floor on or about May 30.
Please start contacting your Senators today and asking them to support SB 598. It will:
- Prohibit shut offs for residents with life-threatening medical conditions
- Requires the CA Public Utilities Commission to create uniform rules for all utilities with respect to reducing shut offs by 50% by 2021
- Measures the impact of utility rate increases on the escalation of shut offs as more and more people with medical necessity cannot keep up with payments.
This is a basic, good sense bill. To assure your legislators in Sacramento agree, please speak out now to remind them that a critical part of a functional state is how we care for those who are in greatest trouble. This is where our voice as people of faith becomes powerful.
To access your state senators in the Capitol or in your local district, please go to: http://www.churchimpact.org/take-action.html
Please speak out for those at risk of losing their heat, light, power source over a short-sighted tactic to collect debt. Bills can and should be paid, but utilities have the alternative of creating repayment plans and strategies for those in need and with dangerous medical conditions. No one from children to our elders should be treated as deadbeats when they are struggling with the care for their family members. SB 598 will move us toward a more rational and compassionate strategy for the good of all.