Washington DC – At a time when tens of thousands of families are losing access to Florida electricity, Puerto Rican residents of Orlando have made an appeal so that corona pandemic the government is issuing a moratorium on disconnecting from the electricity grid and on evicting homes.
‘It’s not that you don’t want to pay, it’s that you can’t. It’s a terrible situationSaid Marta Orbe, a Puerto Rican who has lived in Orlando since Hurricane Maria caught her vacationing in Florida and her own family, faced with the island’s emergency, had advised her to stay in that state.
In October alone, more than 100,000 families in Florida were disconnected from electricity. According to the Connected in Crisis coalition, more than 60,000 were three months behind with their payments.
“This is a matter of life and death, and the working class, Florida blacks and immigrant communities are at disproportionate risk.”the coalition said in a letter to the chairmen of the Florida legislature’s budget committees calling for immediate action.
One of the claims of the Connected in Crisis is to pass a moratorium on power outages until June 1, 2021, which will remove the obligation to pay a reconnection fee and provide financial assistance to citizens.
A similar call has been made to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis to take executive action pending the meeting of the state legislature in March.
More than 20,000 deaths in Florida from the coronavirus – which has disproportionately affected blacks and Latinos.
The Puerto Rican Orbe – who has not been able to return to the island for two years – said he has a debt of $ 573, which he was able to reduce to $ 161 after two hiatus of several hours and the payment of $ 95 in fines. .
In his case, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a reduction in working hours in a department store where he worked 40 hours a week because he has had symptoms that could be associated with the virus, such as a fever, meaning he doesn’t. can go back to work for 10 to 12 days.
“The money does not give me to pay for the apartment, nor to pay for the utilities”said Orbe, who has also worked in restaurants, washed cars and cleaned houses.
Betzaida Vázquez, another Puerto Rican resident of Orlando, said it is becoming increasingly difficult to have food in the house where she lives with her son and meet other financial obligations.
Vázquez said he survives with $ 733 from Social Security, a little over $ 100 in food aid, because each time, due to precautions against COVID-19, he has fewer customers cleaning homes or changing clothes.
A daughter of Vázquez had to take out a loan, which she is now unable to pay, to prevent her electricity from being cut off. “Getting food for the house (and paying the debts) is not easy. There is no work, ”said Vázquez, a resident of Gurabo.
La coalición ‘Connected in Crisis’ reúne a los grupos de base Chispa Florida, Florida Conservations Voters, Florida Housing Justice Alliance, Earth Justice, Organize Florida, New Florida Majority, The CLEO Institute, Sierra Club, For Our Future, Catalyst Miami, Vote Solar, Rethink Energy Florida, Cleanenergy.org and Solar United Neighbors.
“Turning off the lights for people can be deadly,” warned Maria Revelles, also from Puerto Rico, of the Chispa Florida organization.
Zac Cosner, of the Florida Conservation Voters group, said the Florida government has not only failed to impose a moratorium on disconnecting the electrical system, but, unlike other states, has failed to provide assistance to civilians. relieve their debts. “
In Virginia, for example, the government has allocated $ 100 million. In Illinois, $ 48 million was allocated, Cosner said.
With regard to evictions, Ida Eskamani, of the Florida Housing Justice Alliance group, affirmed that amid the growing economic and health crisis “a moratorium is needed for the duration of the emergency”.