The Earth justice civilian group urged Florida’s electricity providers on Tuesday not to suspend service due to non-payment of bills due to the economic and humanitarian crisis caused by COVID-19, noting that this would worsen the pandemic.
The organization on Tuesday delivered a petition for the Florida Public Utilities Commission (PSC) to prevent the suspension.
Under state law, this utility regulatory body will have 30 days to respond.
“It’s a matter of public welfare to ensure that Florida public companies don’t cut off people’s electricity during a public health and economic crisis”
Said Marshall Bradley, Earth justice’s lawyer.
Duke and Tampa Electric Company (TECO) have restarted electric service suspensions, whereas Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) and Gulf Power Co. have announced a plan to reactivate similar operations.
The petition was filed on behalf of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Zoraida Santana, one of “hundreds of thousands” of subscribers who are behind in electricity payments.
Santana, who has children with disabilities and vulnerable to COVID-19, lost her source of income due to the pandemic and until recently was able to restart her job.
“If they cut off my energy, I’ll have no choice but to move in with my four children with my father, and he has no extra space for us”
Santana spent the last few months at home caring for her disabled children, and her doctor warned her not to risk exposure to COVID-19.
The economic need has forced her to return to work despite these warnings.
Duke Energy Florida has included Santana and her family in a bill payment plan, but they cannot and are now at risk of an imminent power outage.
“They’ve requested assistance with their utility bill where they can, but all the funds for customer support have run out,” Marshall said.
The organization noted that although the crisis has worsened in recent months when state unemployment assistance was cut, public enterprises have begun to suspend their services.
Marshall said that without air conditioning these families are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 if they cannot withstand in their homes the heat, which in Florida lasts until September and October.
“That’s not a good idea. To protect public health, people need to be able to cool off in their own homes,” he said.
The state of Florida on Tuesday reached 687,909 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 13,579 deaths from COVID-19 disease since March 1, according to the State Department of Health.
For its part, the United States recorded 200,005 COVID-19 deaths and 6,861,211 confirmed infections on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.