Community members speak out against potential utility shutoffs

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – Since March, electric companies have had an agreement with the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Attorney General’s Office to put a moratorium on any disconnections and late payment fees for Illinois residents.

A spokesperson for Ameren Illinois, Marcelyn Love, said for months, the company hasn’t disconnected power to homes and businesses that were behind on bills.

"There was an agreement we would resume normal operations at the end of August," Love said. "That was due to the state moving into Phase 4 of the recovery plan."

According to Love, companies like Ameren have extended the moratorium even later.

"There has been an agreement from the Ameren Illinois side that we will extend that moratorium through Sept. 11," Love said.

The moratorium ending soon has made some community members, like Robert Garcia, fearful for the future. Garcia was a part of a group that gathered outside the Illinois Commerce Commission in Springfield opposing the end of the moratorium.

"The second wave has been more severe," Garcia said. "This is the absolute worst time to shut off utilities."

Other protestors, such as John Keating, said many central Illinois families will be affected.

"It’s just almost unconstitutional to me that you would almost criminalize poverty," Keating said. "Folks have lost their jobs because of COVID. Parts of Springfield and Decatur have employment rates above 30 percent."

Keating said these shutoffs would hinder the ability to learn for some children.

"Here in District 186, our kids just went back to school and remote learning," Keating said. "If you turn off the power, that deprives them of the opportunity to receive an equal education."

Garcia said the shutoffs will negatively impact the health of people.

"We’re telling people, hey we’re in the middle of a pandemic … you need to wash your hands. You have to do that to stay safe," Garcia said. "How are we going to allow poor families to do any of these things if we shut off their water? If we shut off their power?"

Love said companies like Ameren will only disconnect power as a last resort, but she said there are plenty of programs in place for assistance.

"We understand this is a difficult time for many people," Love said. "Some folks who have never been behind on their bills are experiencing hardship. We encourage them to call us, as soon as possible, to figure out a solution that works best for them."

For more information on the programs Ameren has available, click here.

26-Delivered

via WAND-TV

September 1, 2020 at 07:13AM

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