South Carolina, like much of the country, experienced horrifically cold temperatures over the past several weeks. We slept with faucets dripping. We dressed for work bundled up in so many layers it was hard to move. And we dread the arrival of our next heating bill, coming so soon after Christmas.
As a social worker, I worry about how the cold affects the people we serve: the elderly, folks living with disabilities, the thousands of South Carolinians who barely scrape by on their Social Security check and the families with young children trying to climb out of poverty.
As we read about SCANA’s proposed sale to Dominion, and the promise of a potential $1,000 check to ratepayers (an apology for the V.C. Sumner fiasco), I’d like SCANA to also offer special help on heating bills for those who need it. The cost of the failed nuclear reactors was passed on to all of us, regardless of our ability to pay. This charge unjustly hurt those on limited incomes, many of whom spend a quarter of their income on utility costs. What will these individuals have to give up to pay their next bill? Medicines? Food? Or do they let the bill lapse, and risk having their power shut off during the coldest winter we’ve had in years?
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SCE&G referd customers to resources to assist with bills, but the programs are not funded by SCE&G, but by federal money. And they won’t go far enough to help with this winter’s weather.
Before the Dominion deal is completed, SCANA can send an important good-faith message to those citizens by offering substantial help on their bills. This can be framed as partial reimbursement for the $27 a month we’ve been charged for power we will never get to use. Perhaps the United Way or some other non-profit can distribute the assistance, but no customers affected by the debacle should face having their power cut off because they can’t pay the massive bill about to land in their mailbox.
SCANA burned all of us with its failed nuclear reactors. Let’s hope it won’t leave us — especially the most vulnerable among us — out in the cold.