House PDP proposes moratorium on electricity, water, highway toll hikes
By John McPhaul
The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) delegation in the House of Representatives filed a measure on Sunday to establish a moratorium for subscribers on payments of increases in electricity and water bills.
The measure also prohibits the collection of hiked tolls for the next 12 months.
“Despite the economic crisis in which we find ourselves, LUMA and the [Puerto Rico] Electric Power Authority have requested an increase in the electricity rate that reaches 16 percent over the current rate. According to reports, the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) is following the same path, and will soon announce a potential increase in its rate as well,” said Small and Midsize Business and Permitting Committee Chairman Jessie Cortés Ramos in a written statement. “With this measure, we want to safeguard economic security and guarantee the essential services of drinking water and electricity for hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican families.”
He noted that the voluntary nature of the measure allows for a client or subscriber who wishes to continue making their payments as usual to do so.
Joint House Resolution 249 orders PRASA, LUMA Energy, and the electric power authority, PREPA, to establish a voluntary moratorium, at the option of the customer or subscriber, on payments for increased utility bills, drinking water and electricity, respectively, corresponding to the 12 months following its approval. In the same way, it prohibits the collection of surcharges and penalties from a client or subscriber and/or the suspension of services to take advantage of the aforementioned moratorium due to the health emergency due to the increase in positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the level of hospitalizations.
In addition, it prohibits the Highway Authority from any increase in the collection of tolls on the island’s highways for the next 12 months from the approval of the resolution.
Rep. Estrella Martínez Soto emphasized that the measure is aimed at the most economically vulnerable families.
“A person who finds himself in a precarious economic situation as a result of the measures implemented in this emergency may benefit from the moratorium in order to have the resources to meet his basic needs and that of his loved ones, without facing charges, penalties or increases. in interest rates or additional interest that additionally violates their financial conditions,” said Martínez Soto, who added that many couples in which both parents work have had to make the difficult decision that one of them stays at home taking care of their children, who do not have a school to attend in person.
Rep. Eladio Cardona Quiles said meanwhile that the measure could help even those who are active in the labor force since they have seen families’ cost of living increase onerously.