Citing Public Health Concerns in COVID-19 Pandemic, Organizations Call for Moratorium on Utility Disconnections

(JEFFERSON CITY, MO)…Citing the need to “protect the health and safety of the general public during the ever-worsening COVID-19 pandemic in Missouri, Consumers Council of Missouri filed a motion with the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) on December 7 for an emergency order to create a winter utility disconnection moratorium. The motion was supported by a variety of community organizations that have been convened by Empower Missouri since late October as the Utility Disconnection Prevention Working Group.

Jackie Hutchinson, executive director of the Consumers Council of Missouri said, “The COVID-19 pandemic represents a major risk to health and safety during these winter months. The added strain of utility disconnections could increase stress on our health care system, through potential increases in transmission of coronavirus among families and communities.”

A very recent study at the Nicholas Institute at Duke University shows that eviction moratoria reduce the average growth rate of COVID-19 cases by 4.5%, and water and utility shutoff moratoria reduce the average growth rate by 2.6%.  “We have already seen how COVID-19 has disproportionately harmed communities with low incomes, Black Missourians, and other communities of color,” Hutchinson stated. “The moratorium we are requesting could reduce the threat of increased COVID-19 cases caused when families must leave their homes and move in with others due to utility disconnections.”

Jeanette Mott Oxford, director of policy and organizing for Empower Missouri, added, “Our working group explored a variety of options in an attempt to secure a winter moratorium, but, with cold weather upon us, filing for the emergency order appeared to be the only path that met the urgency of the moment. We believe that the laws of our state allow the Public Service Commission to step in with this type of action when the health and safety of the public are at risk as they so clearly are in this pandemic.”

The PSC has posted notice of the motion and shortened the time for responses. Action by the Public Service Commissioners is expected by December 16

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As temperature drops and virus cases climb, groups file for new Missouri utility disconnection moratorium

JEFFERSON CITY — Since testing positive for COVID-19 last week, Mary Boyd has been quarantining at home, unable to take any shifts at the Nature’s Bakery plant where she works near her home in Hazelwood. And that’s left her with a several-hundred dollar electric bill and a looming utility disconnection.

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