With millions of Americans out of work and a national eviction crisis that could erupt in 2021 when the eviction moratorium ends on Dec. 31, those, who are already facing eviction and behind on their utility bills, could have their water, gas, and electricity turned off as soon as this weekend, according to FOX 5 DC.
As soon as Sunday, Nov. 15, Maryland utility companies will be permitted by the state to start terminating customers with overdue bills, many of which were unable to pay because of job loss due to the coronavirus downturn.
According to Maryland's Department of Human Services, affected customers will have 45 days from the date of a termination notice to seek a payment plan or energy assistance.
FOX 5 DC says, "the number of people behind on utility bills is staggering."
More than 20,000 have not paid their water bills in Anne Arundel County, up from 1,000 this time last year. WSSC Water, which provides water for Montgomery and Prince George's counties, said as many as 100,000 past due accounts totaling $60 million was recorded last month.
In #AnneArundel County, we have 20,000 residents who have not paid their water bills. This time last year, that number was only 1,000. If your income has been impacted by the pandemic and you are struggling to pay your water and wastewater bills, we're here to help. pic.twitter.com/HKx07aYJOd— AACoExec (@AACoExec) November 9, 2020
Tonya Hughes, who lives in the Montgomery area, said she's been financially crushed by the virus pandemic and is struggling to pay utility bills.
"Right now with my water and utility bills, it's basically trying to pay between both of them-calling both utility companies and asking them for an extension," said Hughes.
While FOX 5 DC only focused on a few Maryland counties - we suspect there are more delinquent customers across the Baltimore metro area. Take, for example, food bank lines (see: here & here) were spotted in the Baltimore area late summer - which was around the time the federal stimulus program was expiring.
Watch FOX 5 DC's Report Of Maryland Utility Shutoffs Could Begin Next Week
Imminent utility shutoffs in Maryland is not an isolated event - a new report via energy efficiency startup Carbon Switch warns that many emergency orders by state and local governments to prevent utility companies from shutting off services during the virus pandemic are ending this fall.
Carbon Switch claims as many as 34.5 million households will be left without protections - with the risk that some of these households - like the ones in Maryland will experience shutoffs in the near term.
"There's going to be a tidal wave of utility shutoffs," Michael Thomas, founder and head researcher of Carbon Switch, told CNBC.
"That's because in some states, as many as a third of households are behind on payments. Typically, only about 7% to 9% of Americans are delinquent on their payments, he said. "It's just crazy by any measure," Thomas said.
The economic crisis battering working-class families is far from over. Internet searches for "help paying electric bill" on a national level hit a new record high this month according to Google Trends.
We suspect these desperate internet searches of the working-poor Americans, seeking assistance to pay for electricity, will continue to surge as gridlock in Washington has delayed the next round of stimulus checks.