While social distancing measures have helped the U.S. ‘flatten the curve,’ they have presented a formidable challenge to vulnerable groups who cannot afford to lose their jobs and quarantine at home. With millions of Americans out of work and unable to pay their utilities—particularly their electric bills— the resulting energy insecurity will have longstanding and negative health effects across the nation unless urgent action is taken, according to a new article in Nature Energy.
The piece, “COVID-19 Assistance Needs to Target Energy Insecurity,” was co-authored by Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Professor Sanya Carley and doctoral student Michelle Graff and was published May 1.
The researchers noted that certain socioeconomic demographic groups such as low-income, elderly, and renting households and households of color pay a higher percentage of their income on energy than the average U.S. household.
Many of the jobs lost to the current COVID-19 pandemic are in service and retail, production, food services, health care, construction, and social assistance. Because much of this population lives paycheck to paycheck, a lack of income will make paying rent a financial hurdle, and stocking up on food or paying energy bills may be impossible.