Unpaid bills are causing more utility shut-offs
Rising prices and a sagging economy are boosting the number of customers who can't pay their energy fees. Agencies offering financial aid report long waiting lists.
By Richard Simon
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 7, 2008
WASHINGTON — Utility shut-offs for customers behind on their energy bills are increasing around the country, reaching 50% or more in some hard-hit areas, as the effects of rising prices and a sagging economy are beginning to drag down more vulnerable consumers.
Agencies that provide financial assistance for energy costs report long waiting lists and significant jumps in first-time applicants. With the prospect of much more serious trouble this winter, when bills traditionally are higher, Congress is exploring a significant increase in federal energy assistance as part of a second economic stimulus plan scheduled for consideration next month.
Consumers are being hit by an economic double whammy of high gasoline prices and rising utility bills, which are up considerably in most places because of the much higher cost of fuel used to generate electricity or heat residences.