Utility Service is Vital for Health of Medically Vulnerable Households
The Lifeline Project
The Lifeline Project is a collaboration between the George Wiley Center and the Rhode Island Center for Justice. The George Wiley Center is the point of contact for utility consumers across the State who are concerned about a potential termination, or have already been shut-off. Households connect with volunteers, staff and organizers at the Wiley Center who then make referrals to the Center for Justice where a medical vulnerability makes a household eligible for legal assistance. Since May, the Center for Justice has successfully represented dozens of utility consumers and protected utility service.
Pawtucket resident Shane is the primary care giver for his 74 year old mother who is homebound and suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease, seizure disorder, and other serious medical conditions. Shane and his mother subsist on disability payments and limited additional income and strive to make ends meet. After a water pipe burst last winter, Shane fell behind on his utility bills his gas service was eventually terminated. The loss of gas utility service left Shane and his mother without safe and regular access to hot water and limited cooking ability–circumstances which threatened Shane’s mother’s already fragile health. Determined to care for his mother, Shane sought assistance at the George Wiley Center where the Center for Justice conducts a weekly legal clinic. Center for Justice attorneys agreed to take on Shane’s case and quickly petitioned the Division of Public Utilities for emergency restoration of Shane’s gas utility service. While the Division of Public Utilities initially demanded that Shane pay more than $1,000 in down payments and subsequent monthly payments far beyond Shane’s ability, the Center for Justice successfully advocated for a dramatic reduction in payment requirements to obtain restoration.
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