Consumers Struggle with Utility Bills at High Rates

The struggle with utility bills and late payments dates back to February 2022, with concerns rising as winter approaches and utility shutoff moratoriums associated with the pandemic expire.

09/02/2022 11:30 A.M.

2 minute read

Consumers are struggling with their utility bills and are falling behind on payments, according to the latest data from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), which collects data on energy assistance programs.

As we head into the winter season, NEADA reports that its spring 2022 data revealed utility debt has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic as a result of high energy prices and pandemic-related job loss, according to a press release.

A NEADA analysis of utility debt shows it has increased from about $10.5 billion at the end of 2019 to about $23 billion at the end of February 2022. About 20.1 households were in arrears on their utility bills at the end of February 2022, according to the NEADA.

The association says the surge in energy prices is the main factor in the rise in utility debt.

For example, price increases across all energy sources have contributed to the rising national arrearage balance. In March 2022, overall energy prices increased 32% over the previous 12 months, according to the NEADA.

The Hill reports utility shutoff moratoriums approved during the pandemic are expiring, which could mean consumers lose their energy service.

However, there is financial assistance that U.S. states applied for during the pandemic. All 50 states were allocated nearly $5 billion in federal dollars for home energy assistance programs to assist families in paying utility bills, according to the article.

For guidance on helping consumers, access ACA International’s Know My Debt website and share the link with consumers and clients as appropriate.

Know My Debt, one of ACA’s most popular consumer education resources, features freshly updated content, ACA previously reported. You can include the link to Know My Debt on your agency’s home page and give it to collectors to share with consumers.

Developed and recently updated by ACA’s Financial Literacy Committee, Know My Debt delivers clearly worded explanations to help consumers improve their financial literacy and resolve their debts.

By including links to vetted financial literacy resources on your website, you can help consumers find the critical information they need to feel comfortable talking to your company’s representatives, including about utility debt.

When creating a link on your website, ACA recommends calling it Know My Debt: Explaining Consumer Rights and Navigating Debt Solutions.

Visit the Know My Debt website to learn more about these valuable resources.

If you have executive leadership updates or other member news to share with ACA, contact our communications department at [email protected]. View our publications page for more information and our news submission guidelines here.

If you have executive leadership updates or other member news to share with ACA, contact our communications department at [email protected]. View our publications page for more information and our news submission guidelines here.


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