Researchers from the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs surveyed more than 1,800 Americans at or below 200% of the federal poverty line.
The survey, which professors Sanya Carley and David Konisky conducted, is the second wave of the “Survey of Household Energy Insecurity in Time of COVID.” In June they released the first batch of data, which both highlighted and foreshadowed significant problems with vulnerable populations’ ability to pay utility bills, put food on their tables, and remain in their homes.
The newest data, covering August 4 to 20, confirm those suspicions.
Since June, 17% of surveyed respondents reported that they could not pay their energy bill, 11% had received a notice for utility disconnection, and 4% had been disconnected from the electric grid. These overall rates, however, disguise important disparities across low-income families.
“One in five Black households and nearly one-third of Hispanic households could not pay an energy bill during what was the second-hottest summer on record, yet only 12% of white households reported the same,” Carley says. “This is a life-and-death problem for many, and urgent and continued assistance is desperately needed to mitigate the effects of this nationwide issue.”
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