Low-Income Households Struggle To Pay Utilities In Severe Summer Heat

Robert Mangino
July 09, 2018 - 7:17 pm
Utility Bills

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – Summer heat is proving dangerous for low-income families and elderly individuals struggling to pay for utilities.

Households with lower or fixed incomes pay higher percentages of earnings on utilities and often live in less efficient housing.

A 2016 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy report found households in Pittsburgh had a high “energy burden,” especially African-Americans.

Dollar Energy Fund’s director of communications Jodi Robertson told the KDKA Radio Afternoon News the bills aren’t the only problem.

“It’s more difficult for a low-income household to make those regular maintenance or repairs on a furnace or an air conditioner unit,” Robertson said. “So when that unit breaks, it’s that much more devastating to their budget to fix it.”

For those struggling to maintain service, Robertson says call the utility company as soon as possible.  

“Make that your first call. From there if you’re limited-income or low-income, you’ll be screened for programs,” Robertson said. “They would give you a certification form for medical clearance that will help postpone a termination if you are in threat of one. It’s really important to contact your utility.”

Medical clearance gives households more time to make payments or set up payment plans before shutoff if loss of the utility could be detrimental to one’s health, such as someone reliant on an electric-powered oxygen tank.

Robertson says service providers will provide several notices prior to shutoff and can also help with tips for reducing usage to decrease bills. She encourages neighbors to help neighbors who might be struggling get in contact with nonprofits that can help ease financial burdens.

Families looking for resources can also contact United Way's 2-1-1 Helpline. 

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