The SC Connected in Crisis campaign is a collaboration among a diverse array of 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 South Carolina 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 South Carolina to do the same.
We believe shutoffs and late payments should remain suspended until utilities and their regulators more fully understand the economic impacts of COVID-19 on utility customers and potential means to address them. We also believe it is time for South Carolina to address energy poverty among its residents, providing both short and long term solutions that provide lower bills, less electricity use, and cleaner sources.
While suspending disconnections during a crisis is a public health and safety necessity, it only provides a short-term reprieve for families struggling financially. The problem of unaffordable energy bills goes deeper. Many South Carolina households already 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, South Carolinians will be using more power while isolating at home. 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. South Carolina families are counting on the Public Service Commission and other decision-makers 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.
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 South Carolina’s 911 services to respond.
Given the record-breaking, guaranteed profits that South Carolina’s monopoly utilities have enjoyed over the years, now it is time for them to keep the power on for South Carolina families.
SC Connected in Crisis is launched by the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, and we’re working to develop a broad and diverse network of support around the issues. If you would like to learn more or join SC Connected in Crisis as a partner, please contact us at [email protected].