Friday, December 18, 2009
It seems that, with unemployment high and households continuing to have difficulty in making ends meet, more and more of them were unable to pay their utility bills this year, as detailed in this WSJ report on the latest government data.
The number of households that had their utility service disconnected for nonpayment rose 5% in fiscal 2009, despite a doubling of federal emergency-bill assistance and lower utility rates in many parts of the country.Not surprisingly, utility shutoffs are increasingly common in California where, apparently, there are some problems with "advanced" meters that tend to err on the side of "shutting off" rather than "staying on".
According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, some 4.3 million U.S. households were disconnected for nonpayment in fiscal year 2009, as federal assistance more than doubled to $5.1 billion.
More than 8 million households got emergency-bill assistance in 2009, up nearly a third from the 6.1 million in 2008.
"The federal government is taking over more of the burden from utilities," said Mark Wolfe, director of the association, which includes state officials who distribute federal energy-assistance funds. He added that if the economy doesn't recover, nine million to 10 million households may seek aid in 2010.