Energy Insecurity in the United States
Energy insecurity is a widespread problem among low-income households in the U.S. When families, especially those with young children or disabled household members, are unable to meet their energy demands, their mental and physical wellbeing is likely to suffer. This is particularly true under conditions of extreme weather like heat waves, which are increasing due to climate change.
Now, the COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge for vulnerable populations. Early in the pandemic, several federal, state, and local government protections were put in place to protect low-income Americans from facing economic hardship and energy insecurity, including eviction and utility disconnection moratoriums. Many of these protections expired over the summer, during the hottest months of the year. This pushed more families into uncertainty and insecurity. These shocks will continue to strain the ability of low-income households to afford their basic expenses and keep on top of debt burdens. In addition, as families continue to stay home because of the pandemic, they will need to power their energy sources, including air conditioning, refrigeration, cooking, online learning devices, and medical devices. This increased energy burden will exacerbate insecurity and leave low-income families vulnerable to decreased health, debt accumulation, and eviction.