2020 has been a long and difficult year. As much as we would like it all to be over, we still have a long road ahead of us on our return to normalcy. The State of Florida is just now reaching the peak of new COVID-19 cases, and the associated economic impacts of the pandemic are still looming large across the state. In May, Florida’s unemployment rate rose to nearly 15%, and economic experts are predicting that the third quarter of this year will see the descent of a tidal wave of bankruptcies whose impacts will be felt across the country. To make matters worse, Florida currently stands on the cusp of a homelessness crisis unlike any we have ever seen.
Governor DeSantis must protect Florida families, small businesses, and faith organizations by acting to keep the lights on. Just as he extended a moratorium on evictions, he must also issue a moratorium on statewide utility disconnects.
The Statewide Moratorium on evictions and foreclosures was due to expire at 12:01 am on July 1st. The moratorium has prevented the execution of more than 2,600 active eviction claims, and provided critical protection for the nearly 1/3 of Floridians who report that they will be unable to pay their rent this or next month. Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ last minute extension of the moratorium to August 1st, we will not be forced to grapple with this new wave of homelessness all at once, but unless we take further action we will still see a steady increase in displacement over the course of this long-hot July.
Rent is not the only bill stacking up for those out of work due to COVID-19. Many low-income houses pay upwards of 20-30% of their income on water and electric utilities, and their continued access to these life-sustaining services are still at risk.
Utilities across the state have already begun disconnecting vulnerable families from their water and power, leaving them without essential resources during our country’s greatest time of need. If this disconnection process is not stopped, thousands of families will be plunged into unsafe conditions and driven from their homes, regardless of the eviction moratorium’s protections.
You cannot wash your hands without water, and you cannot safely remain in your home without power. These are basic necessities of life, not luxuries.
Summer 2020 promises to be one of the hottest on record and July and August are the hottest months of the year. The impacts of cutting off people’s water and power at this moment would be unimaginable misery and death. Without proper cooling and refrigeration, Floridians may suffer from heat stress, heat strokes, and reduced immune system function. Without the capacity to refrigerate medicine, diabetics and those suffering from a host of other illnesses will be put at even greater risk than at present.
Disconnecting people’s power is cruel and deadly.
On top of all this, hurricane season started on June 1. Floridians know that our fate can change in a matter of days. With warmer waters due to climate change, hurricanes can spin out of control as they speed towards our vulnerable coasts. Hurricanes impact our utilities with power outages, infrastructure damage, and loss of water connections. Utility companies like FPL, Duke, and Tampa Electric plan for these natural disasters – and they need to plan for our current health disaster too.
We are at the peak of the greatest public health crisis we have ever faced. Rather than help every day Floridians who are struggling economically with COVID-19, leadership has put their health further at risk by allowing utilities to leave them in the dark. It’s time for Governor DeSantis to order all energy utilities in Florida to immediately suspend all power disconnections for non-payment and waive associated late fees and other fines for their residential customers.
Every worker and every industry in Florida is suffering under the effects of COVID-19 and the associated economic downturn. No family should have to choose between essential life-sustaining services during a national time of crisis. Help Florida families keep the lights on by taking action today. Send an email to Gov. Ron DeSantis now!