Recently, I led my Democratic colleagues in writing letters to 22 of the nation’s largest utility companies – urging them to suspend all utility shutoffs for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the election taking center stage in the news in recent weeks, we need to be cognizant that the COVID-19 pandemic is still adversely impacting our everyday lives.
Because of the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, hundreds of millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet and are at risk for having their electricity, water, and broadband services terminated. Minority and low-income families, who have disproportionately borne the brunt of the current economic crisis, are particularly at risk for utility shutoffs.
This could be devastating for Ohioans already dealing with these public health and economic crises.
We have to ask ourselves, what are Ohio families to do if their electricity, water, and broadband services are terminated? How are essential workers supposed to shower and wash their hands when they get back from work without water? How are unemployed Ohioans supposed to look for work without internet services? How are students supposed to attend school virtually? How are seniors supposed to store their medications without electricity? And how are families supposed to heat their homes and keep their families warm in the cold winter months ahead?
With 14 percent of school-age children already lacking access to an internet connection at home, and no current moratorium on broadband and electricity disconnections, even more children would fall behind. We cannot let this happen.
In order to effectively address the pandemic and ensure families are put at greater risk, I’m pressing these utility companies to provide uninterrupted access to these essential public services.
On top of this, Congress needs to do its job to provide relief to the millions of Americans who are struggling because of President Trump’s failure to address this pandemic. To better serve the American people during the pandemic, Mitch McConnell needs to stop recessing the Senate and do his job so we can do ours. It’s past time that we provide rental and mortgage assistance to help keep families in their homes, provide additional stimulus checks to help Ohioans pay the bills, and provide our communities and small businesses with the funding they need to serve our neighborhoods, bring people back to work, and allow students to go back to school safely.
Democrat Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.