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PNS Daily Newscast - November 25, 2020 

Feeding hungry families, on Thanksgiving and beyond; and is that turkey really from a family farm? (Note to Broadcasters: The newscast has been granted a holiday for Thanksgiving, but we'll return first thing Friday.)

2020Talks - November 25, 2020 

CORRECTED 2:30pm MST 11/25 - Linda Thomas-Greenfield would be the second Black woman in US UN Ambassador role, Susan Rice was the first. Biden nominees speak; how can social media spread less misinformation and be less polarizing. *2020Talks will not be released 11/26 & 11/27*

Colorado Residents Struggle Against Energy Inequities

Some 179 million Americans are at risk of having their utilities disconnected as states lift shutoff moratoriums. (Pixabay)
Some 179 million Americans are at risk of having their utilities disconnected as states lift shutoff moratoriums. (Pixabay)
October 5, 2020

DENVER -- With winter just around the corner, Colorado's communities of color and low-income families are disproportionately at risk of seeing their power cut off due to unpaid utility bills.

Thousands of jobs were lost in the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and energy use spiked during lockdowns.

Luke Ilderton, deputy director for Energy Outreach Colorado said this year's unusually hot summer and high number of Air Quality Alert days due to wildfires have put additional strain on the state's most vulnerable residents.

"Opening windows was not an option because of the hazard of the smoke and the particulate matter that was floating around," Ilderton explained. "So that really added to some enormous electric consumption and bills, that now consumers are having to face because the moratoriums have been lifted."

Ilderton said creating energy equity in Colorado, ensuring that all families can access essentials such as power and water regardless of their ability to pay, will take work.

Trust must be restored after families received alarming notices demanding payment, and Ilderton said his group is working to educate utility companies about the realities facing struggling residents.

Nearly 179 million Americans are at risk of losing service, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association.

Mark Wolfe, executive director of the association, said there should be a basic universal guarantee that families can't be shut off if they fall behind on their bills.

"We have to fund, adequately, programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program," Wolfe advised. "It's a very simple program. It's essentially a block grant, and we help people pay their energy bills. So those are the kinds of things that I think of when I think of energy equity, and they're all achievable."

Ilderton noted utility companies have a financial incentive to keep customers connected. It's expensive to send someone out in person to ensure that gas is turned off safely.

He said reaching out to companies directly to negotiate can stop the disconnection process before it gets started.

"I would strongly encourage them to reach out to their utility provider," Ilderton urged. "Talk to them about what a payment plan might look like and what they might be able to afford, and the time they might need to pay back that debt."

Disclosure: Energy Outreach Colorado contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Housing/Homelessness, and Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO