Utility shutoffs, the politics of care work, and school police on the ballot

Good morning! I can’t believe we’re nine days out from the election, but here we are.

I have three new stories that I wanted to share.

1. One crisis that has gotten fairly overshadowed during the pandemic is that of utility shutoffs — meaning people losing their water, electricity, and gas services due to nonpayment. At the start of the pandemic roughly half the states implemented mandatory utility shutoff bans, but today 33 states have either let those COVID-19 bans expire, or never passed them at all. Another seven states have shutoff bans set to expire in early November. This is despite the economy still in shambles, people out of work, and basic necessities like hand-washing recognized as crucial acts to curbing the spread of the virus.

I wrote about state and federal organizing for new and extended bans on utility shutoffs. Activists in New Jersey had real success this month, where the governor, Phil Murphy, announced he would be imposing a mandatory ban on utility shutoffs in his state until March. Activists in Illinois are trying to do the same thing, though their governor, JB Pritzker, has been resistant. Utility companies hate mandatory bans.

As John Howat, a senior energy analyst at the National Consumer Law Center put it to me, utility shutoffs are “a pernicious way to harm people. It’s one of the most subtle and least obvious threats that poses the most immediate risk to people’s pandemic safety.” A national ban on utility shutoffs was included in the HEROES bill passed by the House of Representatives, and there’s a companion bill in the Senate, but it hasn’t been voted on yet. Read the full story in The Intercept.

2. I looked at the evolving politics around passing care policies like universal childcare, paid sick leave, and long-term care for seniors. Why, given that these policies are so widespread across the world, and would do so much to help American families, do we not have them? Why have politicians historically avoided going to bat for them? I looked at where things are at politically, especially in the midst of this pandemic. You can read that story in The American Prospect. It’s part of a larger series on care work they published this month, and the whole package is really worth checking out.

3. Lastly, in the wake of George Floyd’s killing this past spring, communities across the nation began a new reckoning over policing, including police in schools. Over the summer school boards in places like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Denver actually voted to end their contracts with local law enforcement agencies.

But people aren’t all in agreement on what to do, and armed school police are on the ballot in some upcoming school board elections. I looked at how it’s playing out in the school board election for Prince George’s County, Maryland, which is a majority-Black suburb of D.C. You can read that story in The Appeal.

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