COVID-19 Blackout: Restore Electricity To Homes in NE Ohio

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JOIN LAKEWOOD COMMUNITY SOLAR COOPERATIVE, BLACK LIVES MATTER CLEVELAND, CUYAHOGA COUNTY PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS, SUNRISE OHIO, AND CLEVELAND OWNS IN CALLING ON FIRST ENERGY TO RESTORE POWER TO HOUSEHOLDS ACROSS NORTHEAST OHIO.

Like many electric utilities across the country, First Energy has suspended power shut-offs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension of new shut-offs is a necessary move to keep the lights on for Ohioans in this crisis, but it’s not enough. First Energy should commit to restoring power to residents that experienced shut-offs before the pandemic began, as Mayor Frank Jackson promised Cleveland Public Power would do. No one should be denied electricity during a pandemic.

We pledge to join a collective, Northeast Ohio Blackout by shutting off our lights on Thursday, March 26, from 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm as a show of solidarity with those households who are suffering without power during the COVID-19 pandemic. First Energy may control our electricity, but we the people control their revenue.

Using First Energy data, we estimate that up to 4,000 households in Northeast Ohio have experienced electricity shut-offs due to nonpayment in the last 6 months. Shut-offs are disproportionately concentrated in Black, Brown, and working-class communities – exactly the folks most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic – and hundreds or even thousands of these households may still be without power. 

Other utilities, recognizing their services are inextricably tied to public health, have stepped up. Cleveland Public Power pledged to restore service to households that have been recently disconnected. Dominion Gas has committed to reconnecting residential customers whose services have been cut off. PPL Electric in Pennsylvania has also committed to reconnect households that were cut off before the outbreak.

We therefore call on First Energy to institute the following measures to help vulnerable Ohioans through this public health crisis.

1. Commit to automatically restoring power as quickly as possible to households that have experienced recent shut-offs.

2. Commit to extending the suspension of shut-offs for 60 days after Ohio declares its State of Emergency to be over. Once the outbreak begins to subside, families will face the challenge of getting back on their feet financially. Without a significant post-crisis grace period for shut-offs, vulnerable families won’t have a chance to recover.

3. Commit to deep transparency around shut-offs during and after the pandemic, including promptly sharing with municipal governments all legally permissible data about scheduled shut-offs they request, so they can mobilize information and resources in support of households at risk of disconnection, as well as sharing publicly monthly reports of shut-offs by municipality.