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Nadeau Bill Prohibits Utility Shutoffs for Vulnerable Residents During Hot, Cold Months 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, D-Ward 1, joined by Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, introduced legislation Monday to prohibit companies from disconnecting electricity and heat for vulnerable residents during summer and winter months. 

The Utility Disconnection Protection Act of 202 would apply protections from May 15 through September 15, and from November 1 through February 29, an expansion of the current temperature-based protections required by law. Protected households include those with children under age 18, seniors ages 65 and older, individuals with disabilities, and recipients of certain public assistance programs, including TANF, SNAP, and SSI.

“Energy insecurity is a serious problem with wide-ranging consequences for the health and financial wellbeing of vulnerable residents,” Nadeau said. “Shutting off a home’s energy supply can lead to difficulty sleeping, poor respiratory health, and food insecurity, and at times can be fatal.” 

In 2022, households in the District had their gas and electricity cut off nearly 8,800 times due to non-payment. Shutoffs disproportionately affect low-income and Black and brown communities, according to data from the D.C. Public Service Commission. 

The bill would also require companies to create payment plan programs for eligible customers and limits the amount providers can charge to restore power or gas after they have been disconnected due to non-payment to $25. Currently, utility providers can require that a bill is paid in full before service is restored, which can amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars.    

Forty-eight other states have regulations in place that restrict the ability of landlords and companies to shut off utilities, but these laws vary widely. In D.C., it is against the law to shut off electricity and natural gas when the temperature is forecast to be 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above or 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below. This ban applies to all utility customers. 

“Our current bare-minimum protection is inadequate for many populations in our city,” Nadeau said. “We have the opportunity to go further to ensure children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities are protected from the stifling heat of summer and biting cold of winter.” 

The bill is a permanent and narrower version of the protections that were in place during the public health emergency during the recent pandemic, and it would work in tandem with the Water is Life Amendment Act of 2024 introduced by Councilmember Parker, which prohibits water companies from disconnecting water service. 

The bill also requires that an electric company or gas company report data on unpaid bills and disconnections to the Public Service Commission each month. 

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