As we first shared with you on November 20, Empower Missouri has been convening community groups since late October to seek a way to prevent utility shutoffs this winter as Missouri reels under the combined impact of COVID-19 and a deep economic recession. We have met with the governor’s staff. We have met with the Chairman of the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC). Neither of those meetings led to a path forward as quickly as our sense of urgency demands; cold weather is upon us after all.
So we have now turned to a legal maneuver that appears to be as “novel” as the “novel coronavirus” in that it has not been tried before. Citing the need to “protect the health and safety of the general public during the ever-worsening COVID-19 pandemic in Missouri, Consumers Council of Missouri (CCM) filed a motion with the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) on December 7 for an emergency order to create a winter utility disconnection moratorium. Empower Missouri and other members of the Utility Disconnection Prevention Working Group contributed letters of support as part of the exhibits that accompanied the motion.
We believe the Public Service Commission is authorized to take action to protect public health under RSMo § 386.310, and that is what we are requesting. A very recent study at the Nicholas Institute at Duke University shows that eviction moratoria reduce the average growth rate of COVID-19 cases by 4.5%, and water and utility shutoff moratoria reduce the average growth rate by 2.6%.
The PSC has posted notice of the motion and shortened the time for responses. We continue to collect letters of support to submit to the Public Service Commission by the December 14 deadline. If you are part of an organization that can submit such a letter, those may be sent to me at Jeanette@EmpowerMissouri.org by 9 a.m. on December 14 so that we have time to prepare them properly for submission. The letters should be addressed to:
Chairman Ryan Silvey and Commissioners
Missouri Public Service Commission
200 Madison Street, PO Box 360
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0360
The salutation to use on the letter is “Dear Chairman and Commissioners.” See sample letters in Attachment B and Attachment C of the filed motion
If you are not part of an organization that can lend its name, how about signing on to this letter of support as an individual? Empower Missouri will ask the CCM attorney to file the letter from members of the public as part of our exhibits on December 14, so please take action today. Please join us in protecting public health by making it possible for more Missouri households to stay safely sheltered this winter.
Jeanette Mott Oxford
Director of Policy & Organizing