FLORENCE, Ky. — Most states passed emergency laws banning evictions and utility shutoffs during the pandemic.
Those moratoriums are running out, and thousands of unemployed people — plus others still battling COVID-19 — are running out of options.
Mashelle Fields is one of them, living off batteries and borrowed power in her Florence, Kentucky apartment.
She said Duke workers shut off her electricity over the weekend for non-payment going back several months.
"I didn't have the $300 they needed," she said.
But this part-time Hebron warehouse worker says she was battling COVID, and was out of work for weeks.
"You don't get medical pay period when you are a temp worker," she explained. "I'm charging my cell phone in my truck when I can. We are using lanterns to get ready for work."
She is borrowing electricity from down the hall to keep her food from spoiling.
"I asked a neighbor if I could plug in an extension cord to my refrigerator, just to keep it cold so I don't lose my groceries," she said.
Even without the moratorium on shutoffs, most utility companies have been generous this year.
In Fields' case, Duke put her on a payment plan so she could just pay a few dollars a month.
But she learned that if you fall behind on those payment plans, it can be lights out.
Moratoriums on disconnects expiring across the US
A map from the National Association of Utility Regulators (NARUC) shows there are now 38 states where the moratorium on shutoffs has expired or is voluntary for utility companies.
Kentucky's moratorium expired in November. Ohio's is voluntary at this point and up to the individual utility provider.
Last month, Ayanna McClure learned how quickly landlords were filing eviction notices when the moratoriums expired.
"I guess the first day he could file for eviction, he did it," she told us after receiving an eviction notice.
Fields, meanwhile, has applied for aid through Kentucky's Healthy at Home pandemic relief fund.
"I just want some time to get my money," she said.
The good news: After we confirmed to Duke that she would be getting pandemic aid to pay the bill, the utility agreed to restore her electricity.
But if you are falling behind on utilities, get help as soon as possible so you are not shut off.
Don't fall behind on your bills or you may find yourself in the dark.
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