Our community needs a fair and equitable rate structure. As a council representative, you have the power to reign in our public utilities to bring about structural changes that would put the public back in city public service and truly address and mitigate the climate crisis.
Disconnecting San Antonio resident’s utilities amid another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is both inhumane and a human rights violation.
Many San Antonio residents have yet to recover from socio-economic hardships exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic. COVID-19 further exposed a system of inequity that burdens low-income, Black, indigenous, and people of color across the country and right here in our own city. Many of our most vulnerable residents are faced with the painstaking decision of meeting basic needs or paying down debts accrued during the pandemic.
While the national evictions moratorium was extended this summer, utility moratoriums have not fared as well. Early this summer both saws and CPS Energy announced they would begin their legacy of disconnections starting October 1.
By its own accounts, CPS Energy reported more than 100,000 residential customers are past due or eligible for disconnections while SAWS reported more than 64,000 accounts are more than 60 days past due. The average outstanding utility debt for CPS and SAWS is a little more than $600. This is no small amount, especially for low-income families as well as those indebted to both utilities.
Although local and federal utility assistance programs are available for those who apply, families who need the assistance the most need to know about the assistance programs and then figure out how to apply for them. As CPS scrambles to get the word out into the community and have customers apply for assistance, the issue becomes whether they will have enough time to reach all those at risk of disconnections in time. With such a small workforce dedicated to community outreach, we believe the answer is no. Families who need the most assistance also face additional barriers like literacy, limited to no broadband, lack of knowledge about assistance programs and the applications process. As we are hearing on the ground, many utility customers do not know about assistance programs available to them.
We seek to abolish disconnections for nonpayment for all households at or below 200% of the poverty level or reliant on home medical devices and a third-party review of CPS's policies around disconnections.