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Advocates urging KUB to end utility disconnections and lower utility costs

Knoxville resident Breyauna Holloway said she is struggling with KUB's utility costs. "It's a constant stress," she said. "Either you pay or you get cut off."

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Activists are calling on the Knoxville Utilities Board to stop disconnecting customers who can't afford to pay their utility bills.

The Knoxville Water and Energy for All Campaign say it's a problem impacting families of color at a higher rate. Data shows nearly a quarter of Knoxville households pay more than a tenth of their income in utility bills to KUB.

Spanish Version: Defensores instan a KUB a poner fin a desconexiones de servicios públicos y a reducir costos

Breyauna Holloway, a Knoxville resident, said she is struggling with KUB's utility costs. She is a mother of five children and works 40 hours per week. But, she continues to struggle to keep up with the bills.

"It's a constant stress," Holloway said. "Either you pay or you get cut off."

She said she knows payments have to be made for the company to continue providing utility services and she said she doesn't mind but she is curious about whether the base rate could continue to rise.

"Who is setting this? Who is checking the costs," Holloway said. "It's a sickening feeling to come home and to think my kids may come in and flip a switch and the lights aren't on." 

KWEA worked with a nonprofit research firm, analyzing data provided by KUB. The data shows households in non-White poor neighborhoods experience a disconnection from utilities at a rate 170% higher than poor, White-majority areas.

A statement from KUB about the campaign is available below:

KUB has worked with KWEA for several months on their research, providing them with the data they have requested and assisted in any way possible. We have also shared with KWEA that KUB’s TVA contract requires KUB to charge uniform electric rates to all residential customers, and there are similar legal constraints governing our other systems. KUB understands that utilities are essential, and that they can be difficult to afford for low-income individuals, which is why KUB is committed to assisting in the ways that we are able to do so.

Holloway said she thinks KUB needs to better about getting information out about how they are offering help for people struggling to pay their bills.

KUB offers programs supporting people in need. They also allow customers to pay bills in various ways — however is most convenient for them

KWEA plans to continue to organize on a local level and push for KUB to implement the campaign's affordability proposal.

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