(September 2, 2020)
Bryan Texas Utilities (BTU) and College Station Utilities resumed cut-offs and charging late fees in mid-July after a four-month pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. The move angered many residents, some of whom launched protests against the companies.
Texans in the community called their demonstration the “No cut-offs” protest and urged participants to wear cut-offs as a show of opposition to the decision by the two public utilities.
“They’re supposed to be a public utility and the role of a public utility is to serve the community and they like to use the word service but if we’re not taking care of the poorest people in our community then that’s a lie,” argues Dan Kiniry.
BTU responded by stressing that support is in place for the approximately 2,000 customers who are behind in their bills by more than 30 days, which they can obtain by contacting the utility or the Salvation Army.
However, protesters say this is inadequate. “Right now there are 80 people with payment plans set up, so what that should tell us as a community is that plan of just having them contact you is obviously not working. You obviously don’t have solutions for them that are for real people in real situations,” says Kiniry.
Kiniry and other protesters are calling for a suspension of cut-offs until there are no new COVID-19 cases in the area. They also want a permanent end to disconnection fees, reconnection charges, and other deposit payments charged when a service is disconnected.
“City hall can eliminate these penalties pretty easily,” he explains. “City Ordinance 2226 says families who get disconnected have to pay these large amounts of money.”