AARP Arizona is asking state officials to avoid future rate hikes by cutting out unnecessary expenses.
AARP Arizona sent a letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission last week asking the agency to consider further action to make utilities affordable than just temporarily halting shutoffs and not charging late fees or interest during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The ability to maintain safe, affordable, and reliable utility service including electricity, natural gas, water, telecommunications, and high-speed internet service is critical to compliance with stay-at-home orders,” Dana Kennedy, AARP’s Arizona director, wrote in the letter. “Utility service is essential to the ability of people to stay engaged with work, education, and loved ones while maintaining social distance outside the home to prevent the spread of the virus.
“This is especially important for older Arizonans who are most vulnerable to serious impacts from Coronavirus and those who may already be struggling to make ends meet,” she added.
AARP encouraged the commission to review its expenditures and cut costs to avoid having to raise rates in the future. The advocacy group highlighted these areas for review:
- Subsidies for utilities to site electric vehicle charging stations;
- Subsidies to promote heat pumps over natural gas furnaces;
- Early retirement of power plants not fully depreciated;
- Plans for any new intermittent power sources or new high voltage transmission lines;
- Excessive infrastructure spending programs; and
- Surcharges that provide extra compensation for certain investments.
AARP has been active throughout the pandemic in calling for policies that protect seniors.
The group on Monday sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey, calling for the names of long-term care facilities where cases of COVID-19 have been reported to be released. According to AARP, more than 100 cases have been reported in those facilities in Maricopa County alone.
“While it is understandable that we should be cautious regarding privacy concerns, AARP suggests that [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] is specific to the privacy of the individual and does not apply to facilities,” Kennedy wrote to the governor.
And last week, Kennedy had written Ducey asking the state to require long-term care providers to facilitate video conversations between patients and families while in-person visits are not allowed.
During the pandemic, AARP has also worked to educate seniors on how they can stay safe and utilize technology during the pandemic. The group holds online town halls each Thursday at 1 p.m. to discuss these topics, and they are available online for later listening if people cannot attend. This week’s discussion is about telemedicine.
AARP has over 900,000 members in Arizona.