Hoosiers are Suffering a Utility Affordability Crisis
CAC calls on Governor Holcomb to establish a Utility Affordability Task Force with the stated goal of ensuring all Hoosiers have uninterrupted access to essential utility services and are able to remain comfortable and safe in their own homes.
6/23/22 UPDATE: The Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) has asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to investigate requiring utilities to report disconnection data. This is an important first step in evaluating utility affordability here in Indiana!
CAC organizers are hearing stories almost daily about Hoosiers struggling to pay their higher-than-normal, unaffordable utility bills, while trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. We consistently hear complaints from utility customers across Indiana about long customer service wait times, poor customer service, and extremely high utility deposits.
We must thoroughly review the reasons for the affordability crisis that Hoosier consumers currently face and discuss meaningful solutions that will lead to affordable monthly utility bills for all consumers.
This past winter, there was a backlog in processing applications for LIHEAP bill assistance. This was due in large part to a significant increase in the number of Hoosier households seeking assistance with their rising utility bills. For a significant number of Hoosier households, this means that desperately needed bill assistance was not processed in time to prevent utility disconnections by March 15, when Indiana’s disconnection moratorium expired.
No one should be forced to choose between feeding their families and heating their homes.
77% of LIHEAP recipients have a vulnerable person in the home: somebody who is elderly, a young child, or a person with a disability. It is unthinkable that the State of Indiana would allow so many vulnerable Hoosiers to be disconnected from an essential human service while they are awaiting the assistance they qualify for and so desperately need.
Indiana should help prevent mass disconnections by requiring all utility service providers, both regulated and unregulated, to adopt more flexible payment practices. The Governor needs to act immediately to establish a Utility Affordability Task Force to protect the most vulnerable among us.
All Hoosiers deserve to live in dignity and have access to essential services.
Recommended consumer protections should:
- Require utilities to regularly report disconnect data, including: the number of disconnections; number of disconnect notices sent; number of reconnections; and the amount of debt customers owe to utilities.
- Allow longer and flexible payment plans that are based on the customer’s ability to pay
- Eliminate down payment requirements on payment plans
- Eliminate any requirement that disconnected customers pay the full arrearage amount to reconnect
- Prohibit utilities from imposing late fees and engaging in negative credit reporting
- Eliminate minimum balance requirements for prepaid utility service customers
- Eliminate any customer deposit requirements