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Methodists to Congress: Future Stimulus Policies Must Guarantee Moratoriums on Utility Shutoffs

Group Floods Congressional Offices with Nearly 5,000 Emails and Calls

 

September 8, 2020



NEW YORK – As many school districts shift to online only instruction, United Methodist Women today urged Congress to add an end to utility shutoff service to any future stimulus package. The group, part of the #NoShutoffs coalition, warned that at a time when millions of people are unemployed or underemployed, and when school districts are switching to online-only instruction, Congress must ensure that Americans’ basic energy needs are met. This includes ensuring moratoriums on utility shutoffs so that families have the service, including broadband, electricity, gas and water to meet their and their children’s needs. The group, which is the largest denominational organization for women, added that energy policies debated now or in the future must protect working-class, low-income and rural residents.

“Access to utility services is not a partisan issue; it is a matter of life or death for millions across our country who are out of work and unable to pay their utility bills,” said Elizabeth Chun Hye Lee, United Methodist Women executive for Economic and Environmental Justice and Climate Justice Lead for Christian Social Action. “Local and state moratoriums have already expired across the country and thousands of people are presently losing service. People cannot safely stay at home without power, water, and broadband. As schools shift to online learning, all families with children must have internet connectivity. Congress must stand up and ensure that a moratorium remains in the next coronavirus relief package.”

In May, the House passed the HEROES Act which included a moratorium on utility shutoffs, and the Senate is now drafting their own stimulus bill. By Labor Day, United Methodist Women’s members will have placed nearly 5,000 calls and emails into Senate offices urging electoral leaders to prevent utility disconnections. The calls and emails urge elected leaders to support passage of the Emergency Water Is a Human Right Act (S. 4362) and the CONNECT at Home Act (S. 3695).

“As United Methodists, our Energy Policy Statement found in our denomination’s Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church 2016, clearly states that ‘energy policies must guarantee universal service to all consumers, protecting low-income and rural residents.’”

In addition to asking members to contact their Senators to support the bills that ensure a national moratorium, United Methodist Women is also asking members who live in states with no statewide moratorium, an expired moratorium, or a moratorium that will be expiring soon to also contact their state’s governor. In addition to United Methodist Women, over 830 organizations united under a #NoShutoffs coalition, are urging officials to refrain from cutting off utility services for customers unable to pay. The coalition is led by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Food and Water Watch and Partnership for Southern Equity.

In addition to moratoriums on utility shutoffs, the organization also urged their members to contact their respective members of Congress, asking them to take more decisive action to protect individuals and families during the coronavirus pandemic. United Methodists are demanding:

• Enhance unemployment benefits of $600/week

• Provide additional cash aid including increased aid for children. This should be extended to immigrant families, many of whom are on the frontlines of pandemic essential jobs.

• Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit to assist low income families.

• Ensure broad moratoriums on water, power and broadband utility shutoffs, while offering utility payment assistance for low-income households and funding of high-speed internet to those who can’t afford it, as well as to schools and libraries.

• Offer significant aid to local and state governments to support response to COVID-19 and continue to hire essential public sector workers such as fire fighters, teachers and health workers.

To learn more about the life-threatening impacts of utility shutoffs and the necessity of utility disconnection policies that protect vulnerable families, see this report from the NAACP.

 

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