Several communities of color are experiencing the burden of high energy bills. A family is dealing with the tragic death of their matriarch after electricity was cut off in her New Jersey home over an overdue bill.
Linda Daniels, a 68-year-old hospice patient who depended on an oxygen tank, died after being left without the vital life-saving tool and air conditioning during a heatwave in Newark on Thursday, NJ Advance Media reported. The tank was powered by electricity, which was shut off by PSE&G because of a bill. The family, however, disputed the overdue claim and insisted the bill had been paid in full.
As a result of the power outage, Daniels went without AC and necessary oxygen for about seven hours and died of heart failure, her family said. Calls were made to PSE&G to restore the power, but they went unanswered, relatives also said. Paramedics were summoned to the home to provide a portable oxygen tank for Daniels as her family fanned and applied ice packs to her body.
The family previously told PSE&G about Daniels’ medical issues in writing, they said. The company denied that the family had paid their bill or that they knew about the grandmother’s illness before the power was cut off.
The tragedy calls attention to the reality that in Black communities, many residents must spend a sizable portion of their income to pay for electricity. African-American and Latinx households spend disproportionate amounts of their income on energy, according to an American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) coalition April 2016 report. Families who face higher energy burdens can experience more long-term health issues, including respiratory diseases and stresses, the report also found.
A solution would be to create more energy efficiency measures that would help close the gap between whites and people of color by at least one-third, experts said.