- By Sen. Jose "Pedo" Terlaje
Senator pleads with GPA: have mercy on ratepayers
GPA has just proposed a nearly 28 percent increase in the fuel surcharge on its customers' power bills, raising the surcharge from 8.6 cents a kilowatt hour to 11 cents a kilowatt hour. The timing is awful and the economic situation is dire. You have people unemployed, trying to help their kids with distance-learning, struggling to pay their bills and their unemployment running out, and you want to put this additional burden on their backs? The timing could not be worse. Now is the time to prioritize struggling families, to do everything we can to ensure as many families as possible stay afloat because those who fall over the edge will have an even more difficult time getting back on their feet. There is simply no other greater call to leadership right now than giving our families a fighting chance. A person on unemployment benefits can receive up to $345 a week or about $1,380 in a four-week period. According to GPA the average power bill is about $248. That means the tens of thousands of families on unemployment right now can be spending up to 18 percent of their entire unemployment check just to keep the lights on so they and their children can live a basic life of dignity - so their children can be able to go to school online, have light when they study and have a roof over their head. These are the very basics our families need to survive right now.
There is no squeezing blood from a stone. When unemployment runs out, there will be many families who cannot afford to keep their lights on. Will ratepayers see another increase in their power bills because of other’s inability to pay? This can lead to a regressive cycle. I understand that the Consolidated Commission on Utilities and Public Utilities Commission were created to keep utility rates out of the hands of the legislature. So I ask you as a humble resident of this island to please consider what all leaders across the island should be working toward here - the goal of getting our people through this pandemic. This must be every leader’s implicit mission statement right now, and the raising of the utility rate would be counterproductive to that goal. Have mercy on our families. Do not raise their power bills.