Downtown Atlanta

‘Tidal Wave’ Of Power Shut-Offs Looms As Nation Grapples With Heat

Heard on Morning Edition

Nathan Rott | Molly Samuel

Wykeisha Howe is trying to be thrifty. When her kids are uncomfortable in the sweltering Atlanta heat, she gives them freeze pops. Instead of cranking up the air conditioner, she uses a fan. Lunch and dinner are cooked at the same time, so the electric stove doesn’t have to be turned on twice.

“I try my best to manage and ration out things as best as possible,” she says.

Still, Howe, who has five kids living at home, is about a month and a half behind on her electric bill. For the last four months, the bill didn’t need to be a priority. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, her electricity provider, Georgia Power, voluntarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment.

Dozens of states and utilities around the U.S. took similar actions, ensuring that even as businesses closed and millions of Americans lost their jobs, people would still be able to keep their lights on regardless of their ability to pay.

Now, many of those power shut-off moratoriums are expiring, including Georgia Power’s, which ended on July 15. And this comes as Americans who are still struggling face the end of another lifeline: supplemental unemployment benefits that are set to lapse…