Nearly 4.8 million low-income American households were unable to pay an energy bill last year, a problem that intensified during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Low-income Black and Hispanic households were especially vulnerable to energy insecurity, as were households with small children or members who relied on electronic medical devices, and those with inefficient housing conditions.
In "Sociodemographic disparities in energy insecurity among low-income households before and during the COVID-19 pandemic," published by Nature Energy, researchers from the Indiana University O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs analyzed the results of a nationally representative survey of 2,381 adults below the federal poverty line. Conducted in April and May 2020, the survey allowed researchers to study energy insecurity during both 'normal' circumstances and in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We already knew that certain populations were at a higher risk of not being able to pay an energy bill or having their power cut off, but our research demonstrates that COVID-19 made the problem much worse," said Sanya Carley, research co-author. "Many people who were struggling to meet their basic energy needs before the pandemic were the same people who were more likely to get the virus, more likely to experience economic hardship because of the virus, and less likely to receive a stimulus check that could have helped them pay their energy bills."