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According to a new report from the NAACP, utility company shut off policies disproportionately impact low-income and African American communities, literally leaving thousands in the dark, stranded in the cold during winter or severely impacted by sweltering summer temperatures.

With 2016 on record as the hottest year to date, and January of this year documented as the 3rdhottest January on record, many are looking at the coming summer and winter months with fear and dread regarding the potential for utility shut-offs, that leave a disproportionate number of African American and poor communities in the dark and out in the cold.

““The life-threatening fact that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, means climate change and global warming are painful household realities for those whose heat, air-conditioning and power are shut off. Dangerous and unnecessary shut offs in the sweltering heat and frigid cold disproportionately impact the poor, the elderly and communities of color,” said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks. “The measure of our great nation is not unreasoned and unrestrained profitability but rather reasoned solutions and unrestrained compassion for vulnerable populations. This report is inspired by such compassion and offers such solutions,” emphasized NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks.

The report issued by the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program (ECJP) shows lower income communities spend a greater portion of income on electricity and heating costs than high-income communities. African Americans are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-African Americans and spend a significantly higher fraction of their household income on electricity and heating as non-African Americans, who spend more on energy used in the production and consumption of goods.

Since African Americans make up a higher percentage of low-income households, their vulnerability to high energy prices and in turn utility disconnections is exacerbated at levels disproportionate to other groups due to rate hikes or swings in weather.

The NAACP’s ECJP in analyzing state policies concerning utility shut-offs, showed:

• customers with limited income bear a disproportionate burden of energy bills;
• disconnections have a disparate impact on low-income communities and communities of color;
• customers may be reliant on utility services for medical devices and life-supporting systems;
• vulnerable customers’ use of hazardous heating, cooling, and lighting measures can have harmful and even fatal results.

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