Good morning, Community Action:
As the pandemic presses on, so does our advocacy work for Missourians with low to moderate incomes. A recent article from that Kansas City Star states:
"As community transmission rages, monopoly utilities must again do the right thing by reinstating a moratorium on utility disconnections and reconnecting utilities to ensure no family goes without heat, electricity or water until the pandemic is under control. If utility CEOs do not act soon, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson should. This is not just the right thing to do for families and businesses that are suffering through no fault of their own; research published by Duke University found that utility shutoff moratoriums contributed to a reduction in the spread of the virus. This is commonsense policy that will save lives."
We are in support of moratoriums on utility disconnection as this is an issue of public safety and public health. If households’ utilities remain connected, utility companies help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
And we’re advocating to that end.
We assembled stories shared by your agency into Community Action COVID-19 response story packet and have shared this with our state and national partners. This information about your agency’s COVID-19 response and community needs has been included on the Public Service Commission docket, which officially documents the utility challenges Missourians are facing. We also shared your stories with legislative staff during a day of virtual legislative visits.
Missouri CAN met with the Governor’s office (virtually, too, of course) before Thanksgiving to discuss the challenges everyday Missourians are facing with surmounting utility bills and to urge the state to take action. Our meeting centered on three key asks for our state:
- In Missouri, utility companies cannot disconnect service when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. However, we’re asking the state of Missouri to mandate a utility disconnect moratorium that is not dependent upon the cold temperature rule through March 31 as this is a public health and safety issue.
- We asked the state to push for COVID-19 relief support to pay down arrearages and asked Governor Parson’s office to make any existing, expiring funds from CARES Act and from any future COVID-19 Supplemental packages available for reconnections and to pay down arrearages for customers who have been financially impacted.
- And we’ve also asked for a reduction of barriers in access to the LIHEAP application process to encourage more Missourians to apply for the assistance available for utility payments.
Earlier this week, we presented the 2020 Missouri Poverty Report to nearly 30 Ameren Missouri staff from the company’s Customer Advocacy, Energy Assistance, Economic Development, and Regulatory departments. We shared data about poverty across the state had a discussion about what utility companies such as Ameren Missouri can do to address poverty during the pandemic and end poverty in the long term.
Also this week, Dawn Fogarty spoke with Chairman Silvey of the Public Service Commission to discuss the importance of another moratorium on utility disconnections. We also requested support from PSC for outreach about available utility assistance, and the commission has agreed to help with outreach through possible public service announcements if they are able, regarding utility assistance.
Keeping utilities connected is critical for keeping people in their homes and stopping the spread of this devastating virus. With each of these conversations, Missouri CAN is advocating for state government action in directing the utility companies to put health and safety first through preventive measures. This effort is in conjunction with multiple advocacy partners across Missouri, along with the support of the Missouri Hospital Association and the Missouri Public Health Association, too.
If you have specific stories from your customers about their struggle to pay utility bills, please share those stories with us. We have data, but sometimes the stories of everyday Missourians speak louder than numbers and charts.
Associate Director of Strategic Communications
Missouri Community Action Network