The Connected in Crisis campaign is a collaboration among a number of different organizations. Collectively, we firmly believe that no family should have to choose between essential life-sustaining services during a national time of crisis. As our state leadership responds to COVID-19 and the widespread economic devastation it causes to Florida families, we are seeing other states enact protections to help their residents keep the lights on. Clean energy and climate justice partners around the state are asking Florida to do the same. Governor DeSantis should order all energy utilities in Florida to immediately suspend all power disconnections for non-payment, reconnect households that were disconnected before the state of emergency was declared on March 9, 2020, and waive associated late fees and other fines for their residential customers.
Suspending disconnections during a crisis is a public health and safety necessity but only provides a short-term reprieve for families struggling financially. The problem of unaffordable energy bills goes deeper. Forty-six percent of Florida households struggle to pay monthly household expenses, and our power bills are among the nation’s highest. There is a critical need for robust efficiency programs – especially those designed to reduce costs for low-income families – yet the state’s big power companies refuse to help hardworking families meaningfully cut energy waste.
As temperatures rise and hurricane season approaches, Floridians will be using more power while isolating at home. Now is the time for Florida and energy utilities to deepen investments in energy efficiency and solar energy. These clean energy solutions are known to help avoid power outages and disruption to our energy systems, plus they provide more affordable options to Floridians in the long-run. Investing in Florida’s clean energy economy can also help create new, sustainable jobs that will stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. In the past year, Florida has grown solar jobs by 18%, rising to second in the nation. An additional 135,000 jobs could be added to our workforce by enhancing energy efficiency policies.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing widespread loss of wages and jobs, and these impacts are felt hardest by low-income households, communities of color, and the working poor. Florida’s families are counting on the Governor to do the right thing as we all work to overcome this crisis. In the short-term, that means issuing an order prohibiting all power disconnections for non-payment and requiring reconnections for households that were disconnected before the state of emergency was declared. In the long-term, it means investing in an equitable renewable energy future that provides more jobs, energy independence, and resilience benefits for Floridians.
Power shut-offs can be deadly for low-income families and vulnerable populations, who are already facing harsh inequities in the face of COVID-19. They can easily lead to the dreaded cascading and multiplier effects of increased domestic violence, in-home seclusion of children and the elderly, and other safety issues, further burdening the ability of Florida’s 911 services to respond. Given the record-breaking, guaranteed profits that Florida’s monopoly utilities have enjoyed over the years, now it is time for them to keep the power on for Florida’s families.”