How Suspending Utility Shutoffs During Coronavirus Pandemic Could Help Working Poor

Mar 17, 2020

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Credit ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

Several cities and companies have suspended utility shut offs during the coronavirus pandemic. It could help families on the margin.

Indiana Michigan Power says they will not shut off power due to missed bill payments. The Cities of South Bend and Goshen suspended water shutoffs and late fees for non-payment.

The goal is to offset some of the financial stress people may be facing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bryan Tanner is the director of strategic engagement for United Way St. Joseph County. He said this grace period will be most beneficial to the working poor who don’t quite qualify for financial assistance.

“Roughly 43 percent of the households in St. Joseph County are barely making ends meet. They know under normal circumstances they can’t pay all those bills in a timely fashion, let alone under compressed and dire straits that may befall them over the coming weeks.”

  He said these suspensions will help ensure everyone is able to practice the good hygiene needed to protect against the virus.

“By delaying the shutoffs for the time being, it allows people to at least have the peace of mind and comfort that when they’re not at work, when they have no ability to pay their bills because of a catastrophe that’s happening on a global level, that they can at least have their families safe, warm, and have fresh drinking water at their house.”

Tanner said people should continue to pay their bill as usual if they can.

He said this will help when the grace periods end and the bills will have to be paid.

Update 3/18/20 The City of Elkhart has also suspended utility shutoffs for non-payment as well as late fees.  

  Contact Annacaroline at acaruso@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @AnnacarolineC16

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