Philadelphia House leadership, legislators, call on Governor Tom Wolf to halt all Public Utility Commission utility disconnections in wake of the COVID-19 virus

PHILADELPHIA, Mar. 12 – Members of Philadelphia leadership team in the state House were joined by fellow Philadelphia legislators in asking Gov. Tom Wolf to place a moratorium on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission from further utility shutoffs for the foreseeable future for all Pennsylvanians in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philadelphia members in leadership positions, including Reps. Jordan Harris, Democratic whip; Joanna McClinton, Democratic chairwoman; Rosita Youngblood, Democratic secretary; Jason Dawkins, Philadelphia Delegation chairman; Stephen Kinsey, Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus chairman; and Jim Roebuck, Education Committee chairman, were joined by Philadelphia Reps. Donna Bullock, Morgan Cephas, Joe Hohenstein, Malcolm Kenyatta, Brian Sims, Maria Donatucci, Danilo Burgos, Isabella Fitzgerald, Mike Driscoll, Mary Isaacson, Pam DeLissio, Chris Rabb, Elizabeth Fiedler, Jared Solomon and Kevin Boyle in issuing the following statement:

“The COVID-19 virus situation is literally evolving by the hour in Pennsylvania as we continue in what’s a situation many Pennsylvanians have never experienced. Many of our neediest residents have life-saving medical equipment that they use in their home, and it’s of the utmost importance that they have consistent access to that equipment through their electric utility. Our emergency rooms and first responders can’t be asked to spend finite resources on Pennsylvanians who could be at home but were forced out seeking medical treatment due to their electricity being shut off. That would be simply unconscionable.

“Furthermore, as the Department of Health has consistently reminded us, hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus. Taking away water from Pennsylvanians would needlessly exacerbate the situation. Times like this call for extraordinary measures to be taken, and Governor Wolf has the authority to ensure no Pennsylvanian will worry about losing utility access.”

By law, electric distribution utilities and natural gas distribution utilities are not allowed to shut off electric or gas to a consumer at or below 250% of the federal poverty level between Nov. 30 and April 1. It does allow shutoff for consumers above 250% of the federal poverty level, as well as other specific clauses regarding bill payment in conjuncture with the federal poverty level. Lawmakers are asking for all shutoffs, regardless of federal poverty level or bill payment status, to be halted.

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