Rep. Morales bill codifying and expanding protections for consumers from energy shut-offs passes House

 

STATE HOUSE – The House today passed a bill by Rep. David Morales that would codify and extend the state’s annual utility termination moratorium, which protects consumers from experiencing energy shut-offs.

Under current regulations from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), electricity and gas providers are not permitted to shut off residential utility services during the state’s annual utility termination moratorium, which stretches from November 1 to April 15 of each year. Representative Morales’ bill (2023-H 5411) extends that period until May 1 of each year, providing two more weeks of protection while also enshrining these protections into law.

These protections help ensure people and families on fixed incomes have heat in their homes throughout the fall, winter, and spring, even if they cannot afford their utility bills.

“It is imperative that all our working families, especially households with children and seniors, have the basic utility services of heat and electricity, as they are contemporary human rights,” said Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence). “We all know that the weather in Rhode Island can be unpredictable, even more so as climate change alters historic patterns. Over the years, we’ve experienced a range of temperatures from the freezing cold to heat waves, making the need for reliable utility services more important than ever. Therefore, it is crucial we extend and codify our state’s annual termination moratorium period because each additional day with these protections makes a difference. This legislation will help ensure our most vulnerable residents have heat and electricity when they need it most.”

“Solidifying protections against utility terminations until May 1st allows for consumers, advocates and agencies to have more time to prevent unnecessary electric or gas service shut-offs as there are more opportunities afforded for people to enroll in energy assistance programs, like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program,” said Camilo Viveiros, Executive Director of the George Wiley Center. “This expansion will make a difference as it will save people from the social and economic harm of having their energy shut off. We applaud Rep. Morales for his continued efforts over the last several years to address this issue and expand these protections.”

The bill now moves to the Senate where Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) has introduced a similar bill (2023-S 0169).

 

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