Letter to the Editor | Student government must urge lawmakers to stop utility shutoffs


Photo courtesy of KOMUnews/Flickr

A utility meter near the Blue Note music venue in Columbia, MO, displays a reading. The ISG needs to step up in preventing household utilities to be shutoff.

By Niko Johnson-Fuller

It is easier for a utility to disconnect a household than for a landlord to evict tenants. This is borne out of data from Champaign County and the Illinois Commerce Commission, where hundreds of eviction cases have made it to court while thousands of households’ utilities were shut off. This is why the Champaign County Board followed the lead of the Illinois Student Government, which has passed two resolutions in support of the #NoAmerenShutoffs campaign’s demands to stop utility shutoffs.

While there is a divide between campus and community, this is yet another clear instance where bipartisan campus advocacy has paved the way for the community to respond in kind. In 2020, the ISG was the first bipartisan body to pass a resolution on utility shutoffs and was subsequently followed by municipal legislative measures in the Urbana and Bloomington city councils.

Twelve resolutions in total have been passed since April of 2021. Of those, 11 called for a utility shutoffs moratorium, including the ISG. The three most recent resolutions called on Congress to pass the Maintaining Access to Essential Services Act, of which the ISG passed the first. This reinforces that we aren’t an island — student advocacy here on campus has repeatedly had real impacts on the communities around us on the state and national level.

Student government leadership must continue to proactively support pandemic safety policy measures. The UIUC Young Democratic Socialists of America, a member of the #NoAmerenShutoffs Coalition, has led efforts to pass these resolutions in the ISG and will continue to advocate for a student government that fights for our community’s safety. This upcoming election, UIUC YDSA’s electoral committee plans to release a candidate guide, which will include candidates’ positions on pandemic safety policies such as utility shutoffs.

Niko is a sophomore in LAS.

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