A state of emergency is looming in Illinois, says the South Austin Coalition.
Thousands of working families who fell behind on their utility bills face disconnections. This is not the result of a natural disaster but rather the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression, which has plummeted many West Side families into deep poverty.
Take the case of Mary Ware, a blind, disabled senior citizen who lives on a fixed income. She will have her power disconnected by ComEd on Monday, July 18, reports the coalition, which will hold a press conference today at 11 a.m. at the Austin Senior Center, 5071 W. Congress, to urge Mayor Rahm Emanuel to hold a summit with ComEd.
The utility company has adopted a hard line on customers like Ware who are trying to negotiate reasonable partial payment plans to continue or restore their service, said Theresa Welch of the South Austin Coalition. Plus, the company is piling on discretionary deposits on those least able to pay, she added.
“We are truly in a race against time, both to avert the social catastrophe of having a disabled senior like Mrs. Ware living in a home with no power during this ghastly heat wave as well as the thousands of working families in Chicago who face a similar fate,” Welch said.
The situation facing thousands of other families who are going to be disconnected is intolerable, cruel and inhumane, and it creates a severe health crisis, possibly life threatening during the summer heat wave, the coalitions says. (Temperatures over the next three days are expected to be in the 90s.)
The South Austin Coalition is requesting:
a three-month hold on shutoffs for low-income customers
a more affordable reconnection and/or repayment plan that focuses on continuation of services, not shutoffs
public health hearings on the “utility shutoff crisis.”