Tell Governor McKee Rhode Islanders Want Improved Utility Assistance
Dear Governor McKee,

Over a third of the population in Rhode Island are poor or low-income and people are struggling more than ever due to the health and economic crises made worse by COVID-19. Our utility rates are among the top five highest states in the entire country. We need to improve the utility assistance program to ensure low-wealth families and individuals Rhode Island don't experience the grave consequences of utility shut-offs.

We urge you to support bills S2182 and H7530, “An Act Relating to Public Utilities and Carriers” that would create an income-sensitive tiered subsidy program to ensure that home energy utility costs are affordable for eligible low-income households. Over a dozen states have successfully implemented tiered utility programs, including Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois and Maine.

The time is now to pass these bills out of committee and to a floor vote in the state House and Senate Chambers, where they have broad support from legislators across Rhode Island. The vast majority of elected officials represent low-income Rhode Islanders with more than one-third of the state's population facing economic insecurity. Of this population, nearly half are children and 40% are women, with even higher percentages among Black and Latinx Rhode Islanders at 64% and 69%.

You represent all of these Rhode Islanders, Governor McKee, and we urge you to request these pieces of legislation be brought to a vote.

Right now, people living under the poverty line pay up to 44% of their income to utilities in Rhode Island. If this legislation is enacted, households under 150% of the federal poverty line will pay a fixed percentage of their income for utilities. This would enhance the current utility assistance program that only helps about one-fifth of Rhode Islanders living under the federal poverty line, leaving almost 70,000 households in need of greater assistance. The utility shut offs that happen as a result can have grave consequences and affect approximately 20,000 Rhode Islanders every year.

Utilities are a basic human right. Utility justice is environmental justice and it is social justice.

As people who have ourselves, or have loved ones who face economic insecurity, and are just one or a few paychecks away from utility shut-offs or housing and food insecurity, we urge you to take executive action to see through the passage of a percentage of income payment program for eligible households  in Rhode Island.

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Include a personal story about you, a loved one, or a neighbor, who has faced financial insecurity. Most Rhode Islanders are one paycheck away from financial insecurity which comes with food, housing, and health insecurity. Express how enacting this legislation would bring you greater peace of mind and why you believe it’s beneficial for all Rhode Islanders.
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