COVID-19 Crisis: 60 Organizations Call on Georgia Governor to Take Immediate Action to Ensure Residents are Protected from Utility Shut-Offs

Press Room

For Immediate Release

ATLANTA – April 1, 2020 – Today, 60 organizations across Georgia called on Governor Brian Kemp to take immediate action pursuant to his authority granted under the state’s emergency management act to ensure utility customers remain connected to essential electric, gas, water, sewer, and telecommunications networks, both during and after the coronavirus emergency. State executive action is needed for several reasons, outlined in a letter from the organizations to Governor Kemp.

According to the letter, while many of Georgia’s utilities have acted voluntarily to suspend shut-offs, others have not. Also, voluntary commitments from utilities are unenforceable and subject to change. Essential electric, gas, water, sewer, phone and broadband internet services are needed to comply with directives to stay at home while sick, engage in frequent hand-washing, work from home, participate in online education, consult with health care providers remotely, monitor the condition of vulnerable family and friends, and follow other public health recommendations.

“Access to lighting, electrical appliances, telecommunications services, heat and cooling are critical at any time, but especially so during a pandemic when Georgia residents are required to shelter and learn at home,” the organizations wrote. “This action will undoubtedly save lives.”

The letter specifically asks for gubernatorial action to ensure that all unregulated municipal utilities, electric cooperatives and telecommunications providers, in addition to regulated utilities, refrain from disconnecting customers from essential electric, water and telecommunications services during this state of emergency, and to require utilities to reconnect customers who were previously disconnected due to inability to pay.

Further, the letter requests specific guidance on the many needed changes to utility credit and collections practices to protect utility customers whose incomes have been devastated by the economic shutdown, and who face an uncertain financial cliff when emergency orders are lifted. Consistent with nationwide guidance from the National Consumer Law Center, the organizations recommend the Governor take the following actions to ensure that consumers are protected from financial harm both during and after emergency orders are lifted:

  • Elimination of any customer deposit requirements
  • Enactment of an “Affordable Deferred Payment Arrangement” (ADPA) policy that is designed to ensure the creation of flexible, reasonable ADPAs that are negotiated based on a particular customer’s ability to pay and income and expense circumstances, requiring no set maximum on length of DPAs and no minimum monthly payment amount
  • Elimination of any requirement that disconnected customers pay the full arrearage due before reconnection, thereby permitting reconnection upon issuance of an affordable ADPA
  • Elimination of reconnection fees
  • Elimination of minimum balance requirements for prepaid utility service customers
  • Elimination of credit reporting for existing customers and credit checks for new service applicants
  • Utility write-off of debt for consumers who can self-certify that they are eligible for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) but unable to receive LIHEAP grants due to a shortage of LIHEAP funds or inaccessible LIHEAP services.

Signatory organizations:

Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE)

Atlanta Bicycle Coalition

Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency

Ayika Solutions

Bobby Dodd Institute

Center for Civic Innovation

Center for Community Progress

Center for Sustainable Communities

Chatham County Housing Coalition

Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition

Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Deep Center

Economic Empowerment Initiative, Inc.

Enterprise Community Partners

Environmental Community Action Inc.

Environment Georgia

Faith in Public Life

Focused Community Strategies

Georgia Advancing Communities Together

Georgia Budget & Policy Institute

Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda

GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students

Georgia Equality

Georgians for a Healthy Future

Georgia Interfaith Power and Light (GIPL)

Georgia Interfaith Public Policy Center

Georgia Micro Enterprise Network

Georgia PIRG

Georgia STAND-UP

Georgia WAND Education Fund

Georgia Watch

Groundswell

Grove Park Foundation

Harambee House/Center for Environmental Justice

Housing Justice League

Independent Restaurant Owners and Chefs of Savannah

SisterCARE Alliance

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Southern Environmental Law Center

LISC Atlanta

Mercy Care

Mercy Housing Southeast

National Housing Trust

Paradise CDC

Paradise Missionary Baptist Church

Partnership for Southern Equity

Project Community Connections, Inc.

Quest Community Development

Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Sandy Springs Together

Southface

The Kenekt

TransFormation Alliance

The Village Market ATL

Urban League of Greater Atlanta

Village Micro Fund

West Atlanta Watershed Alliance

The Young Entrepreneurs of Atlanta Foundation, Inc.

9to5 Georgia

About Southface Institute

Southface Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, is a leader in sustainable advocacy, building, planning and operations across the U.S. With a mission to create a healthy and equitably built environment for all, Southface’s programs, consulting services, education, research and policy practices are supporting better homes, workplaces and communities. Experts in the fields of resource efficiency, building tech and organizational sustainability since 1978, Southface is committed to building a regenerative economy to meet tomorrow’s needs today.

For more information, please contact Emily Proctor, Senior Communications Manager, Southface Institute, at eproctor@southface.org.

Media Inquiries

For more information about Southface or to arrange an interview with our President Andrea Pinabell, members of the media should contact: communications@southface.org.



Tags: COVID-19

Related Content

How Innovative Technology Can Create Affordable Water

For many, accessing clean and affordable water is an everyday challenge. For others, the economic...

The Future of Travel Is Regenerative

Leading up to the pandemic, sustainable travel was a popular buzz word in the tourism...