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179 million Americans are at risk of having their utilities shutoff

About 179 million Americans are at risk of losing their utility services amid the coronavirus pandemic, as a second stimulus package has yet to be determined. Yahoo Finance’s Dhara Singh joins Zack Guzman to discuss.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of Americans out there are hurting, whether it be tied to job losses or hours being cut. We are seeing more Americans grapple with paying the bills. And this next story comes at a terrible time, if you consider that.

Protections for as many as 179 million Americans are rolling off, and it could leave a lot of Americans stuck here when we talk about utility shutoffs and the power that some of these companies have to actually shut off utilities for many Americans. And here to discuss that with is Yahoo Finance's Dhara Singh, who joins us now. And it seems like a shocking number here. I mean, is that-- it's 179 million.

DHARA SINGH: Yes, 179 million is just so much, Zack. You know, we had seen President Trump use CDC authority to enact an eviction moratorium until December 31st. But unfortunately, that left off utilities. Americans, a huge chunk of their payments per month goes to utilities.

If we're looking at people who pay-- who earn a minimum wage in states across the United States, if you do the math, you see that 15% of what they make in a month goes to utilities alone. And so, aid is really important in that department. And quite frankly, we haven't-- it's drying up.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, when we talk about where and how quickly they're expiring, that's another question because, as we've seen, some of these don't impact the US across region equally. So what are you seeing in terms of that?

DHARA SINGH: Right, so basically, as of the CARES Act, there was $900 million allocated for low income home energy assistance programs across the US. And from the experts that I've talked to, similarly to how eviction relief was kind of drying up across all states, the same story goes for utility relief.

And so, if you look in states like Florida, where there actually, frankly, aren't quite any statewide protections, but they're simply on a case by case basis, depending on what utility provider you have, people are really suffering right there.

You know, we recently had a court case-- I mean not a court case, but recently, a proposal was struck down by the League of United Latin American Citizens of Florida, where they wanted a 90-day moratorium on utilities.

But basically, that was shut down because a lot of these companies were saying that, hey, you know, we're in trouble, too. And we're already offering you payment plans. So it becomes this kind of tug of war, in a way, where utility companies are really hurting and so are people like us.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and not having those protections in place, utility companies might lose money, but it's a very different thing to lose utilities when you're trying to make things work for you. But Dhara Singh, appreciate that update.