Multnomah County advocates for Our Vulnerable Communities in Oregon Public Utility Commission's COVID-19 Investigation
Ensuring that community members do not lose access to electric and gas utility services during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial. COVID-19 deepened the vulnerability that many in the community already experienced. Indeed, the pandemic disproportionately impacted BIPOC communities, and low-income communities saw drastic job losses. Three local electric and gas utilities adopted voluntary moratoriums on disconnections in March, and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) convened stakeholders to understand how to mitigate the risk of customers losing access to essential utility services during a pandemic.
Multnomah County's Office of Sustainability worked in partnership with allies and community partners like the Citizens’ Utility Board, Verde, Community Energy Project, the NW Energy Coalition, and the Community Action Partnership of Oregon, and the County’s low income energy assistance and weatherization programs, to advocate for a historic agreement to protect community members impacted by COVID-19. The agreement includes customer protections like continuing the disconnections moratorium for gas and electric utilities’ residential customers until at least April 2021, and provisions that will result in more funds and more flexible repayment options for customers carrying a utility balance. The PUC commissioners recently approved the agreement that should soon be signed and finalized.