Advocates want more protections for people struggling to pay utility bills


TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – People are struggling to pay bills during the coronavirus pandemic, and for some, it’s getting hard to cover basic needs.

A coalition of Kansas and Missouri advocacy groups called Build Power MoKan said utility providers, or each state’s governor, need to prevent utilities like electricity, gas, and water from being shut off.

“It is wrong and immoral in any society, but especially during a pandemic to threaten utility shutoffs and evictions to those of us who are already suffering from the pre-existing conditions of poverty and economic instability,” said Claire Chadwick, a Kansan who struggles to pay her bills.

There have been times during the pandemic when utility disconnections were prevented, but those ran out. Now it’s up to the providers.

Evergy said it is not disconnecting anyone until March.

“We’re waiving late fees, we’ve extended 12-month pay agreements so that any balance that you have that’s past due can be stretched over a longer period of time to continue to make payments toward that. We can also help customers identify community assistance that might be available,” said Evergy spokeswoman, Gina Penzig.

But you should pay down your total bill, because the cost will keep increasing.

“Energy use continues, in fact in some cases we’re using more because we’re working from home or kids are having school from home, and so any tools that we can help customers with as far as keeping those balances manageable helps when we get to the other side of this,” Penzig said.

For people that were disconnected before December by Evergy, power won’t come back on until 1/12th of their total bill is paid.

Having some people without utilities as we head into winter during a pandemic has some people worried.

“When putting profit over people is policy, people die. You start to ask yourself, where are the leaders. Why aren’t they making sure their constituents have what they need to shelter at home,” said Brandy Granados, another person struggling to pay bills.

Evergy said there should be more help on the way as more federal dollars will become available at the turn of the year.

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