May 12, 2021
DENVER – The number of Coloradans who need help staying energized in their homes increased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, and energy experts say the lessons learned could help utility companies, policymakers and government agencies tackle long-standing inequalities.
Jennifer Gremmert, executive director of Energy Outreach Colorado, said COVID-19 shed light on the economic fragility of communities of color and low-income families, including frontline workers praised for their efforts in hospitals and clinics. grocery stores.
“And what we saw in the wake of the pandemic is that so many people were really living on the edge, in a crisis of not being able to pay their energy bills,” said Gremmert. “We also saw a disproportionate number of minorities who needed this help.”
When thousands of people lost their jobs or were forced out of the workforce to care for children after schools closed, many families had to make tough decisions.
Gremmert noted that his group’s toll-free helpline has received more than 250,000 calls for help in the past year. The group paid more than 25,000 overdue utility bills, a 46% increase from the previous year.
Gremmert pointed out that we are not yet out of obscurity, highlighting the Great Recession, from which it took low-wage workers years to recover.
Even before the pandemic, one in four Colorado households struggled to pay their energy bills, and Gremmert argued that now is the time for systemic change.
She suggested action should be taken by utility companies, lawmakers, government agencies and nonprofits to ensure families most at risk can access payment assistance and replace devices. broken heating and ceiling fans.
“But also just a fundamental belief that we have to help our neighbors in need,” urged Gremmert. “And it might not be for a long time, but it’s to make sure they can be healthy participants in our communities.”
Gremmert pointed out that removing barriers, including bureaucratic red tape, will help more people cut off electricity.
Then, she pointed out that investments in energy efficiency in low-cost housing can help lower monthly utility bills. She added new energy policies, as the nation moves away from sources of climate pollution, must include the state’s most vulnerable families.
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