Commissioner Jackson Request Moratorium on Utility Disconnections
On Monday (August 1, 2022) the Caddo Parish Commission will consider Resolution 37 of 2022 seeking a formal pause on utility disconnections from Southwestern Electric Power Company and its parent American Electric Power Company, Inc. (AEP SWEPCO) and Panola-Harrison Electrical Cooperative. The legislation in being proposed in response to higher than normal utility cost Caddo Parish residents are experiencing this summer. Utility company representatives will attend Monday's meeting to provide the Commission and the public an update on the issue.
If approved, the moratorium from utility disconnections would expire on November 1, 2022. The resolution will not stop or forgive any payments due and nor will it stop the calculation of current and future usage. The proposal ask each of the utility operators to develop flexible payment plans, waive late fees, credit card processing fees, and ask the City of Shreveport to suspend collection of its franchise fee and adopt mirroring legislation. Resolution 37 also seeks to tap additional Emergency Rental Assistance Program(ERAP) funds that has gone unspent from the state of Louisiana. Louisiana has formally submitted its application for voluntary reallocation plan to the US Department of Treasury and is waiting on that approval to disburse funds to some parishes. To date, Caddo Parish has paid $1,523,620.19 towards utility bills through their ERAP 1 & ERAP 2 programs and millions more through the Caddo Community Action Agency's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program known as LiHeap. However, everyone does not qualify for LiHeap Assistance due to income restrictions. In contrast, ERAP2 funds through President Biden's American Rescue Plan provides income flexibility and allows funds to be used for utility assistance cost without it being a COVID19 relate burden.
"It appears that this is more than a usage issue. A decade ago, residents were asked to set there thermostats to 70 degrees to control cost, now we are asking them to set it to 75-80 degrees. I cant imagine that we will soon ask households to set their thermostats to 85 degrees in peak summer months just to try to keep cost down." "We know that recent natural disasters have caused unexpected damage to an already aging power supply infrastructure. The cost to repair and rebuild these electrical platforms are being reflected in higher cost to customers. There are funds are readily available at the sate that will help customers with rising cost. I hope that state leaders will see the that a very small amount of those funds can be deployed locally to help residents pay the differences in their bills. There will also be funds from President Biden's Infrastructure and Jobs Act that will will be available to leverage long term solutions. The state could and should offer incentives to utility companies to rebuild their infrastructure in exchange for keeping their rates affordable for customers."
If Resolution 37 is approved, the options will be available to residents who are not more than 60 days behind on their utility bills. "This program is intended to help those who really need help. Not individuals who have neglected their personal responsibility for months. It also not intended to be permanent source for households to rely on. Sometimes people need a bridge and that is what we want to try to help with."