According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one-third of adults say they face difficulty meeting their regular household expenses. As temperatures continue to drop, unemployment remains high, and additional pandemic relief aid is stalled, activists are warning about an energy crisis: a growing number of Americans who are unable to pay for utility bills like gas, heat, electricity and water.
Richard Ferreira directs community services for Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton in New Jersey. They give money to people who can’t pay their utility bills.
He said, normally, they get about 15 calls a day, “but now we seem to be spiking to like 35 to 40 calls a day.”
The protections against shut-offs are lifting and disconnections have already begun. Tens of thousands across the country have lost their power, which is disproportionately affecting people of color.
“As compared to white households, Hispanic households were 15 times more likely to have their household disconnected for the first time, since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Michelle Graff, who teaches energy policy at Indiana University. “And Black households were 6 times more likely.”