Category: Press Releases

2022 Building Equity and Healthy Communities Fundraiser and Award Ceremony

Consumers Council held a celebratory fundraiser, panel discussion, and award ceremony on November 13, 2022 at the Ethical Society of St Louis.

The Alberta Slavin Award was presented to two individuals who have shown a distinctive commitment to protecting the interests of consumers: Jay Hardenbrook, Missouri AARP Advocacy Director and Chaplain Will Jordan, J.D., Executive Director of the Metropolitan St Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council (“EHOC”).

The Community Engagement Award was presented to the St Louis Equal Housing and Community Reinvestment Alliance. Susan Glassman accepted the Director’s Award, given posthumously to the late Consumers Council Board member Betty “Renee” Marver. The Volunteer Award was presented to Brenda Haalboom.

The event featured a panel discussion moderated by Sarah Fenske Executive Editor at Euclid Media Group and Former Host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St Louis On the Air.” Dr. Ed Weisbart, John Coffman, and Jackie Hutchinson gave updates on consumer issues regarding healthcare, utilities, and personal finance.

 

Jay Hardenbrook Accepting the Alberta Slavin Award

Jay Hardenbrook Accepting the Alberta Slavin Award

 

Will Jordan, Alberta Slavin Awardee, with Sandy Padgett and Jackie Hutchinson

Will Jordan, Alberta Slavin Awardee, with Sandy Padgett and Jackie Hutchinson

 

Panel Discussion, John Coffman, Jackie Hutchinson, and Dr. Ed Weisbart, hosted by Sarah Fenske

Panel Discussion, John Coffman, Jackie Hutchinson, and Dr. Ed Weisbart, hosted by Sarah Fenske


Consumers Council thanks the following contributors for their generous gifts in sponsoring this event.

Consumer Champions

Justine Petersen

Saint Louis Bank

Commerce Bank

Simmons Bank

Consumer Protection Leaders

Enterprise Bank & Trust

FCB Banks

Khalilah and Sam Charrington

Energy Care

Dr. Ed Weisbart

 

 

 

 

 

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ADVOCATES PUSHED BACK AGAINST AMEREN MISSOURI’S RATE INCREASE TO SECURE EXPANSIONS OF LOW-INCOME PROGRAMS, OTHER PRIORITIES

For immediate release                                                  Contact: Andrew Linhares, Renew Missouri

March 15, 2022                                                             andrew@renewmo.org, (314) 471-9973

ADVOCATES PUSHED BACK AGAINST AMEREN MISSOURI’S RATE INCREASE TO SECURE EXPANSIONS OF LOW-INCOME PROGRAMS, OTHER PRIORITIES

St. Louis, MO – Two recent orders from the Missouri Public Service Commission helped mitigate the impact of Ameren Missouri’s recent rate increase for struggling families. Ameren Missouri, the state’s largest electric utility, filed for a $299 million rate increase that would have added $12 per month to the average electric bill. A coalition of consumer groups and energy efficiency advocates pushed back against the rate increase, lowering it to $220 million and securing a collective set of priorities that will help the most vulnerable families who have experienced severe utility debt and disconnections as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of a settlement, Ameren Missouri must expand its “Keeping Current” program, which helps lower-income families reduce their utility debt and maintain service, doubling its budget from $2 million to $4 million per year, with Ameren’s shareholders contributing half. Ameren must also add May and September and expand program eligibility to 300% of the Federal Poverty level to reflect greater demand for utility assistance. Additionally, despite large commercial/industrial customers’ stance that residential customers should pay a larger share, the PSC determined that the rate increase will be apportioned equally.

Jackie Hutchinson with the Consumers Council of Missouri was one of the advocates pushing for expansions to the Keeping Current program, along with other priorities. Hutchinson stated: “This increase in Keeping Current/Keeping Cool Funding helps us protect the health and safety of our most vulnerable residents, those over 65 living on limited fixed incomes and low-income families with children 5 and under. It also expands our ability to serve families with higher income who struggle to pay due to high energy burdens.”

The settlement also commits Ameren to: 1) launching a new “Critical Needs” pilot program to deliver focused assistance to individuals living with certain medical conditions; 2) launching a rehousing pilot program which will use existing bill assistance resources in order to rehouse individuals and families and return their utility service; 3) reducing late fees to 1% per month; 4) maintaining the monthly residential customer charge at $9, rather than a proposed increase; and 5) collecting and sharing aggregated customer usage data with stakeholders for use in a study on energy burdens across Ameren’s territory.

This settlement and the community support it now includes are the direct result of the collaboration of Missouri community advocates, which included: the Missouri Energy Efficiency for All coalition, Consumers Council of Missouri, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Homes for All St. Louis, and others. The group’s demands were voiced at local public hearings and in written public comments submitted by renters and advocates who insisted that their pandemic hardships be met with equitable solutions. For more information about how customers can seek assistance through the Keeping Current program and other opportunities, please refer to the Utility Resource Guide below.

(see “Missouri Utility Assistance Guide”)

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In Memory of P. Wayne Goode, board member, supporter and friend

Peter Wayne Goode Jr. (August 20, 1937 – October 3, 2020) was born in St. Louis and attended the University of Missouri in Columbia and earning a degree in finance and banking. He was a former officer of the United States Army Reserve. Goode was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives for district 33 in 1962 and was a Democrat. He served until 1984, when he was elected to the Missouri State Senate. he served in the senate until 2005. Senator Goode is best know as the founder of the University of Missouri–Saint Louis, however he served the community in many other capacities. In 2006, he became a founding board member of the new Consumers Council of Missouri, building on its foundation, laid in 1971, to educate consumers statewide and advocate for their collective interests.  

Our deepest sympathy  goes out to his family. He will be greatly missed by our board and the entire community.

Wayne Goode: father of UMSL, longtime state legislator dies

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MISSOURI CONSUMER GROUP CONDEMNS ROLLBACK OF FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS

The Trump Administration wants to take away the rights of states to protect their own citizens from air pollution and volatile gas prices through clean cars standards. 

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Gas Rates Go Down and Low Income Residents Get Bill Assistance.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Cara Spencer, executive director of Consumers Council of Missouri
314-556-7379
 
Gas Rates Go Down and Low Income Residents Get Bill Assistance.
Jefferson City — The Missouri Public Service Commission just approved Spire’s new natural gas rates – effective April 19 – and your monthly gas bill will actually decrease, with the savings varying cross the state.
Last year, Laclede Gas Company (Spire’s Eastern Missouri territory) requested an increase of $3.31 per month for the average residential customer. But after a full audit and litigation of consumer concerns, these customers will actually see a rate reduction of approximately 5%, or an average of $2.00 per month less for an average residential consumer.
MGE (Spire’s Western Missouri territory) requested a $5.09 per month increase for the average residential customer but these customers will see a rate reduction of approximately 1%, or $0.40 less each month for an average consumer.
The measure is not a slam dunk for consumers – the order granted a very high profit level (9.8%) and approved a Weather Adjustment, which exposes consumers to future rate increases whenever we experience a warmer than normal winter, a rate mechanism that consumers will continue to fight. The Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge (ISRS) will also continue to grow in the future.
Overall, however, gas bills will go down this month, giving consumers a reason to cheer.
 
But this rate reduction almost didn’t happen. Two years ago, Consumers Council of Missouri successfully fought state legislation (HB 1471 – 2016 / SB 849 – 2016) that would have prevented this rate case from happening. At that time, the gas utility claimed that the legislation would spare ratepayers a costly rate increase.
 “Consumer advocates have been saying for years that gas delivery prices should be reduced, “ says John Coffman of Consumers Council “ and in fact, this is the third full rate case audit in a row that has resulted in some rate reduction for the Laclede Gas area.”
 
Another positive that came out of this most recent rate case was the outline of an improved low-income program, that should end up providing over a million dollars of relief, with rewards for participants who keep current on their bill payments. A settlement provides 120 days for the utility, consumer groups, and community action agencies to work out the details of this new program.

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Corporate Tax Break Reduces Utility Bills in Many States, MO?

JEFFERSON CITY / ST. LOUIS — January 22, 2018

Consumers Council of Missouri is calling for the state of Missouri to take swift action to evaluate and the pass through to consumers the hundreds of millions of dollars utility companies will enjoy following the passage of the new tax law. Current utility rates are calculated based on a corporate tax of 35%, a rate which was just dropped by a whopping 40%.

 

Electric companies in Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Arizona and other states have announced plans to pass these massive tax savings on to customers through lower rates and some of the largest utilities in the country have voluntarily established a plan to reduce rates. We are looking to Missouri to do the same.

 

The Public Service Commission has opened a docket to take comments from utility companies as well as the general public. We encourage consumers to weigh in and will be watching closely.

 

for more information contact:

Cara Spencer, Executive Director   cara@moconsumers.org, (314) 556-7379
John Coffman, Utility Consumer Counsel                               (573) 424-6779

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The MO Exchange: Steep Rate Hikes Expected

Proposed rates for the 2018 Missouri health insurance exchange were released on Friday by the Missouri Department of Insurance.

While the Department and our state’s carriers both deserve credit for ensuring that all counties in MO have ACA coverage, this comes at significant cost. Requested increases average between 35 and 42% according to a review by the Department and as reported here.

What makes these increases even worse is that they come with compromised transparency to the general public, allowing carriers to hide critical elements they are relying on to justify significant increases. While many states allow no redactions at all, Missouri insurance companies routinely omit reasons for increases from public documents. You can read CCM’s request and legal argument for more transparency here.

Join Consumers Council of Missouri as we weigh in on these proposed rates. By federal law, the public has 30 days to comment. Contact us if you’d like guidance on submitting comment.

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Public Access to Health Insurance Rates Postponed in MO

The annual review of health insurance rates helps to protect consumers from insurance companies unjustly increasing rates on premiums. Federal regulations specify that 2018 health insurance rates must be made public by August 1 to facilitate this review process but the Missouri Department of Insurance has postponed public access of these filings in our state to September 1, 2017.

With all the activity on the national level regarding the future of subsidies and the last-minute addition of Centene to the MO marketplace, it is no surprise that the Department has postponed the date. But the delay will hurt the ability of consumers and advocates to review health insurance rate increases for 2018.

This makes our work even more important. Consumers Council of Missouri and our rate review legal team will be ready to go come September 1. Stay tuned for what’s in store for MO health insurance consumers.

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