- Arizona passed a law prohibiting utility companies from shutting off power over missed bills in 2019.
- That moratorium expired on Friday, The Arizona-Republic reported.
- The state announced a new $US36 ($AU49) million program to help families pay bills, on Friday.
Arizona will provide $US36 ($AU49) million to help families with utility bills, the Arizona Department of Economic Security announced on Friday.
“The team at the Arizona Department of Economic Security continues to find new and innovative ways to support Arizonans lifting themselves out of financial challenges,” Gov. Doug Ducey said in the announcement.
The announcement comes as a two-year moratorium on service cutoffs expired, The Arizona-Republic reported.
The Arizona-Republic reported that in June 2019, an emergency rule passed by states regulators prevented utility companies from shutting off services for people who missed bills. The emergency rule came after a 72-year-old woman died after her power was shut off.
The pilot program will work with Arizona Public Service Co., the Salt River Project, UniSource Energy Services, Tucson Electric Power, and Southwest Gas.
The announcement said the funding would be directly applied to customers’ accounts once they’re deemed eligible for the program.
DES said it plans to also expand the program to all utility programs following this pilot program.
“Public-private partnerships like this are integral to ensuring families have access to the resources they need,” DES Director Michael Wisehart said in the announcement. “With the utility companies’ collaboration, we will be able to distribute assistance to help customers keep their lights on and their accounts current. We are grateful for their partnership in supporting Arizona families.”
The Arizona-Republic reported that the funds for the program are coming from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which was passed by Congress last December.
The state has rolled out several support programs during the pandemic including a rental assistance program.
However, earlier this month, a top official in President Joe Biden’s administration warned Ducey that millions in federal relief funds could be in jeopardy because of two anti-mask education programs, Politico reported.
In August, Ducey launched a grant program that used $US163 ($AU220) million from federal funds to give to schools that stay open during the pandemic and also abide by state laws that prohibit mask and vaccine mandates. He also launched a $US10 ($AU13) million program so families could send kids who went to schools that required masks or vaccines to private schools.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale Adeyemo said he was concerned the programs “undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19,” and has given Ducey 30 days to explain how Arizona will “remediate the issues” before facing consequences including losing funding.