As California recovers from the economic downturn, officials should be careful to avoid making the cost-of-living and affordability problem worse for residents, explain Danielle Blancet-Hyden and Patrick Welch of the California Municipal Utilities Association a commentary published in CalMatters.
There’s no doubt California has been hard hit by the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s unemployment rate is north of 15% and millions of households are struggling to pay their bills, whether it be the monthly rent or mortgage, a car payment or their utility bills.
Even before COVID-19 arrived, what Californians paid for water and electricity service was increasing at a faster pace than the national average. Based on an analysis of U.S. Department of Energy data, between 2008 and 2018 monthly residential electricity costs rose in California by an average of about $30, while the national average increased only about $10. A similar trend applies for water service in California, with many water service rates pushed even higher due to unfunded, state-imposed mandates.
This is why affordability – now more than ever – must be a priority as Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Legislature and the state’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery chart a course intended to reinvigorate California’s once-thriving economy. Californians simply cannot afford significantly higher utility bills, especially during this crisis.