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If you will indulge me a moment of reflection, we turned 70 this month. . .
Well, perhaps not 70 years old, but the March/April issue of the FSC newsletter (FSC Law and Economics Insights) is the 70th newsletter looking at utilities affecting low-income households. Every other month, now for nearly twelve years, we have taken some utility issue affecting the poor and tried to present an intelligent discussion that would help advocates increase their effectiveness.
In the past year, topics we have covered include:
March/April 2012: We reviewed the results of Pennsylvania’s controversial Chapter 14 (the “Responsible Utility Consumer Protection Act”) (concluding it did NOT improve collections and DID impede access to utility service).
January/February 2012: We examined the Massachusetts Arrearage Management Plans (concluding that they didn’t work particularly well).
November/December 2011: We looked at how to determine the “affordability” of rural local phone service.
September/October 2011: We offered an annotated model state utility commission regulation governing deferred payment arrangements.
July/August 2011: We presented a study of Section 8 utility allowances in Pennsylvania and the lack of effectiveness of SEMAP in ensuring compliance with HUD utility allowance regulations.
Other topics over the years that have been particular favorites of mine include:
November/December 2009: we discussed the issue of “over-noticing” shutoffs, and how over-noticing both impedes the effectiveness of the notice and contributes to payment problems that need not exist.
May/June 2007: we looked at the multiple aspects of “ability to pay” when that term is included in utility regulations, and how “ability to pay” is not a synonym for “income.”
January/February 2006, presented the components of a statewide low-income energy “needs analysis.”
July/August 2005, which examined how and why to seek the contributions of “patronage capital credits” to local fuel funds from members of Rural Electric Cooperatives (RECs).
March/April 2005, which examined the percentage of income level that should be used as a demarcation of “affordable” water/sewer bills.
November/December 2004, explained how low-income energy advocates could and should be involved with introducing energy affordability issues into the preparation of Consolidated Plans by local jurisdictions seeking HUD affordable housing funding.
In January/February 2002, we presented an empirical study of data from Iowa documenting how Iowa’s winter shutoff moratorium does NOT result in increasing winter nonpayment by protected low-income customers.
Of course, in 2003 we introduced the Home Energy Affordability Gap (which has been published annually ever since) (www.HomeEnergyAffordabilityGap.com). In September/October 2001, we presented our first discussion of how and why utilities should promote the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as a form of “energy assistance.” In September/October 2000, we introduced how low-income energy advocates could and should be involved with the calculation of the “standard utility allowance” for determining the “excess shelter deduction” for Food Stamp recipients as a means of generating additional “energy assistance.”
With luck, perhaps we’ve done some good over the years. With even more luck, perhaps we’ll add 70 more newsletter editions before all is said and done.
You can access the FSC newsletter on the FSC website (www.fsconline.com) (click on the “News” button). It’s all free, of course.
"It's nice for the poor to make ends meet. It's even nicer to make them overlap a bit."
Roger D. Colton
Fisher, Sheehan & Colton
Public Finance and General Economics
34 Warwick Road, Belmont, MA 02478
(e-mail 1) firstname.lastname@example.org *** (e-mail 2) email@example.com
(web 1) www.fsconline.com
(web 2) www.HomeEnergyAffordabilityGap.com
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