A group of more than 30 local nonprofit campaigns and justice organizations delivered a joint letter to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer demanding he stop the Orlando Utilities Commission from resuming utility disconnections later this month.
Disconnections had been suspended across the board since mid-May, as the coronavirus shutdowns led to mass layoffs of Central Florida's workforce (also known as people). Individuals and families depended on utility and eviction suspensions as a tiny foothold to begin getting through the global health crisis.
OUC provides electricity and water services to more than 240,000 customers, including the residents of Orlando, unincorporated areas of Orange County, and the city of St. Cloud in Osceola County.
OUC's board announced last month that they would resume disconnection on July 13 (next week!) and fines for late payment in early August. To take action like this during a pandemic – not to mention the height of Florida summer heat – seems heavy-handed at best.
Among the organizations signing this letter are Let Your Voice Be Heard Inc., Orange County Black Caucus, Second Harvest, QLatinx, Sierra Club, Islamic Center of Orlando and Organize Florida.
Their collective letter makes a compelling argument for OUC to extend its moratorium on utility disconnections, reading in part:
As a municipal utility, OUC operates as a public entity accountable to the people of Orlando and as such, should be more responsive to the needs of its ratepayers. Investor-owned utilities, such as Duke Energy Florida, which are corporations with headquarters out of state, have yet to announce any restart to disconnections. You have the power to halt disconnections and to ensure our communities are taken care of in these uncertain and tumultuous times.
As of this writing, Mayor Dyer has yet to respond to this letter, according to the Energy Justice Now organizers.
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