Florida Power and Light is one of several utility companies that stopped shutting electricity off for people who haven’t been able to pay, but FPL is now sending final notices and announced it will resume shutting people’s power off in October.
Donette Manning says she’s having a hard time covering all of her monthly bills.
“If I paid my utility bill all in one lump sum I would not know what I would be eating next week,” Manning said.
She says she is currently behind on her utility bill and fears what will happen if she can’t get caught up.
“Utilities being shut off is scary. It sounds scary. Water and lights are necessary to survive in this society,” Manning said.
FPL and other utility companies suspended disconnections when the pandemic began, but in October, FPL plans to resume disconnecting customers who do not pay their past due balance or do not contact the company to make payment arrangements.
It’s a move civil rights groups are hoping to stop.
Responding to every consumer complaint
A petition filed last week with the Florida Public Service Commission asked state regulators to step in to halt electricity shutoffs for 90 days.
FPL and three other major utility companies responded Tuesday with their own filings.
One filing stated “the requested relief is not necessary” and that “disconnections are always a last resort.”
“The majority of renters in this situation, they don’t have income still because of COVID, or they are in a very economically unstable situation,” said housing organizer Adrian Madriz.
Madriz, who is with the Miami Workers Center, says many of the same people struggling to pay rent are also struggling to pay utilities.
“There is a chain of reactions in what is happening. What began first as people losing their jobs because of COVID closures has now turned into people not being able to pay their rent, and not being able to pay their utilities. In extreme cases, it is turning into people not being able to pay for food,” Madriz said.
FPL reported to the state that roughly 250,000 residential accounts were behind on payments in the month of June. The average account balance was $251 at the time.
“To ask them now to go ahead and pay what utility bills that might be in the hundreds of dollars, that is simply out of the question for a lot of these families,” Madriz said.
In this week’s filing, FPL pointed to outreach efforts the company has taken since the pandemic started to help those impacted financially. They also mentioned a new program that would provide a bill credit up to $200 based on the status of the customer’s bill. To receive the credit, eligible customers will need to pay their total outstanding balance net of the bill credit, according to the FPL’s website.
The Public Service Commission has 30 days to address the emergency petition.