From msn.com Thursday:
Families across the United States are drowning in utility debt. In 33 states, families who can’t afford to pay their bills have been protected from energy shutoffs during the winter thanks to moratoriums that temporarily halted them. But 29 of those moratoriums have now ended, and the last ones expire on May 1.
Now, many families are facing potential power shutoffs if they cannot pay their overdue home energy bills. In fact, more than 20 million families are currently behind on their utility bills, owing about $23 billion, up from about $10.5 billion at the end of 2019. The White House, Congress and the states must work together to quickly address this looming crisis.
Rising energy prices are a primary factor behind this increase in utility debt. In the past 12 months, the price for natural gas increased by 21.6%, electricity by 11.1% and fuel oil by 70.1%. For the lowest-income households, the yearly cost of home energy increased from $2,511 in 2019 to $3,399 last year. If current trends continue, the cost could reach about $3,957 this year, almost 58% higher than costs were in 2019. On top of that, families are struggling with high rates of inflation for other essential goods like gasoline, food and rent.
When a family is shut off from power, they cut back on food, medicine and other essentials in order to get reconnected as quickly as possible. An estimated 3.5 million people were disconnected in 2020 and 2021 in 32 states plus the District of Columbia.
Available federal funds are not sufficient to help families pay off their full debt and become current on their bills. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provided states with an additional $4.5 billion for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides formula grants to states to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills. The White House has recommended that states use other recovery funds as well to help families pay these bills, and has called on utilities to not shut off families that have applied for assistance. While 14 utilities have committed to keeping families connected while they wait for assistance, it is unlikely that will be enough to fully solve the problem.
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While Republicans would like to blame this on the Biden Administration, nothing could be further from the truth. Energy prices have been jumping due to the recovery from the pandemic, but also in large part due to a deal the previous president imposed on OPEC to have OPEC cut their production. Add to that the economic sanctions that are cutting purchases from Russia.
Thus as Elon Musk makes headlines as he buys himself a giant toy and Jeff Bezos does all he can to suppress unions at his companies, the poorest in the US continues to grow and continue to hurt. The child tax credits that helped many families pay utility bills ended last December as Republicans stopped any attempt to have them extended.
Iowa’s Republican leadership has done what it can to kick people while they are down. This week, Republicans cut back unemployment insurance payments. An email from Progress Iowa Wednesday summed the current plight of the working poor in Iowa:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 04/27/2022
Kathryn Kuckelman (Press Secretary)
(515) 490 – 8526
NEW REPORT: Iowa Working Families Can’t Afford Corporate Kim’s Agenda
Des Moines, Iowa — Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement in response to Common Good Iowa’s new report, The Cost of Living in Iowa 2022:
“Iowans work hard, but things are tough right now because of Corporate Kim Reynolds. It’s hard to take care of ourselves, let alone each other. And today’s report from Common Good Iowa reaffirmed what we already know. The things that cost and matter the most — a roof over our heads, childcare for our kids, healthcare for our families — have long been put out of reach.
“According to today’s report, ‘Iowa workers have to earn well over the minimum wage, and in some cases well above the state’s median wage, to meet even an exceptionally frugal basic-needs budget.’ We know the reason hardworking Iowans just can’t get ahead is because Corporate Kim Reynolds and other Republicans have made it impossible.
“By blocking wage increases and siding with corporations that don’t pay enough, Reynolds is hurting our families and forcing people to leave rural Iowa. Even as workers struggle, she and Republicans are stripping workers of earned unemployment benefits, forcing Iowans into low paying jobs. At the same time, Reynolds continues to give the rich and wealthy businesses tax breaks, while taking money away from our public schools, public safety, and health care services, exacerbating her workforce crisis.
“We can’t survive like this. We need real leaders who stand with working people – not those who hand out kickbacks to corporations. We need to pass laws to stop corporate price gouging, curb education debt, make childcare and healthcare affordable, and raise our wages.”
Republicans will do all they can to keep the rich extremely rich and the poor in debt forever. GOP now stands for Greedy Oligarchs Party.