Homework: Testify to support emergency moratoriums on utility shutoffs

The George Wiley Center needs your help testifying in favor of a bill that would prevent utility shut-offs during declared states of emergency.

Rhode Island News: Homework: Testify to support emergency moratoriums on utility shutoffs

February 20, 2021, 4:38 pm

By Uprise RI Staff

State Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence) introduced a bill earlier this month – H5442 – which would “impose a moratorium on the termination of utility services throughout a limited period of any emergency declared by the governor, with special provisions related to emergencies related to health epidemics.”

The George Wiley Center, a grassroots agency that organizes members of the low-income community to advocate for systematic changes aimed at alleviating problems associated with poverty, strongly supports this bill and they need the public’s help to get it passed. To do this, they are asking everyone to share their their comments at the House Committee on Corporations meeting taking place at 6pm, Monday, February 22, 2021, online.

There are two ways to testify, over the phone during th committee meeting, and written testimony.

  • To submit verbal testimony, that is, to speak to the committee members directly by phone, you need to register your intention to do so no later that Monday, February 22 at 11am. Individuals interested in providing verbal testimony need to send their name, phone number, bill number and position on the legislation(for/against/neither) to [email protected].

The way the system works is that the committee clerk will call your phone when the bill is being heard so that you can speak directly to lawmakers. There are a lot of bills on the committee’s agenda, and the bills can be heard in any order that the committee chair chooses. So the call could come any time between 6pm and 8pm.

You can watch the committee live by following this link.

  • Written testimony should also be submitted to [email protected]. Indicate your name, bill number, and viewpoint (for/against/neither) at top of message. In order for materials to be distributed to members and posted to the General Assembly website prior to the hearing, written testimony must be submitted no later than two hours prior to the posted meeting time, or Monday, February 22 at 4pm. All testimony received after deadline will be sent to committee members and posted to the website – within 24 hours. For faster processing, it is recommended that testimony is submitted as a PDF file.

The George Wiley Center has provided a template to use for writing your written testimony, but testimony is always better when you put it in your own words. Make it personal. Talk about people you know and love who are facing utility shutoffs. Go here to learn about the health effects of utility shut-offs. Or look at what’s happening in Texas right now!



Identify the legislation you are supporting and the intended recipients of the testimony.

Testimony Supporting House Bill 5442: Termination of Service During Periods of Declared Emergencies. To the Honorable Members of the House Committee on Corporations.


State your name and your qualification as a constituent, along with any other qualifications relevant to your testimony if applicable (i.e. your profession or your association with a community organization). State your position on the legislation.

My name is Belinda Cake and I am here to testify as a social worker, and most importantly as a citizen of Providence, RI in support of House Bill 5442.


Summarize your understanding of the legislation and explain your position.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has decimated the economy, both in the United States and here in Rhode Island. Many people, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs as a result of this period of economic instability. HB 5442 ensures that the victims of this misfortune will not have to worry having their home utility services cut off due to a lack of payment during our declared, statewide COVID-19 health emergency and for a period of 90 days following the end of the declared state of the emergency.


Talk about the impact the legislation will have on you and others and why that matters. Include personal anecdotes here to illustrate your point and support your assessment with facts.

As a social worker, I am concerned about the consequences of utility shutoffs to the poor and working-class members of our state who have already been disproportionately negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. According to TURN, a consumer advocacy organization focusing on utility policy reform, the human health impacts of ceasing utility services include increased risk for pneumonia, flu, bronchitis, colds, heat stroke, hypothermia, and hyperthermia. Other risks include sanitation issues, dangerous heating and lighting practices, and making unthinkable financial tradeoffs including foregoing healthy food, medicine, and other necessities. This is unconscionable. During times of crisis, we must support our most vulnerable. This is why a moratorium on utility shutoffs is so important.


Describe what action you hope the official will take. If you are opposing a piece of legislation, it’s helpful to offer an alternative. Sign off on your testimony with your name, address, and contact information.

In conclusion, I humbly ask you support HB 5442. It is the right thing to do for our fellow citizens in Rhode Island.

Written testimony can also be sent directly to the Representatives on the House Committee on Finance: