by Taylor Beck
The Missouri Public Service Commission, the agency that determines utility rates in Missouri, is looking to cut rates for low-income Missourians.
Currently, customers pay a different price depending on whether they are a home or business owner. This process is called a “rate class.” Prompted by public hearings across the state, the commission is looking to create a separate residential rate class with a lower rate specifically for low-income residents.
If the commission were to create this new rate class, people like Kathleen Chitwood could see a change in monthly utility bills.
“If they want to lower it? Yes, it would benefit me,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood represents other low-income residents in Missouri as an alternative board member for the Jefferson Franklin Community Action Corporation. She said the bad economy has put her and many others in a bind to pay for necessities such as groceries and utilities.
“Well there’s so many people out there. There’s elderly out there, there’s single moms out there that don’t have a job or were laid off and they’re struggling,” Chitwood said.
Chairman of the House Utilities Committee, Rep. Darrel Pollock, R-Lebanon, said he does not see the new rate class as something the commission should be looking to adopt.
“My personal opinion is that I know that utility bills are expensive, they’re expensive for everyone,” Pollock said. “All hard-working people have to pay them.”
Pollock also said there are existing programs and laws to help low-income residents, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program offered by the Missouri Department of Social Services. The program provides financial assistance to help pay heating bills for Missourians during the winter months based on income, household size and available resources. Community action agencies in Missouri also help low-income citizens with bills.
“Look at ways to lower the cost of energy for all taxpayers and citizens of the state, rather than set up another governmental program of assistance and then that takes our eyes off what I think our goal should be is to drop those energy rates for everyone or make them more affordable for everyone,” Pollock said.