The fans are blowing and the air conditioner is whizzing in Tabitha White and Lawrence Carter’s small apartment in a courtyard building off Lake Street and Laramie Avenue.
The couple and their two small children, who both have mental disabilities, had their electricity turned on earlier three weeks ago after being shut off by ComEd while temperatures were hovering near 90 degrees. Without electricity to power the air conditioner or portable fans, White’s small apartment turned into a virtual oven.
“It feels great,” Carter said of his much cooler apartment on this Tuesday afternoon. Carter was happy the power was back on since the stress from it sent White to the hospital with a bad anxiety attack. She was released the next day. They lost $140 in food when someone entered their apartment leaving their refrigerator door open. Carter said food pantries helped replace some of the items.
Their electricity was reconnected on Aug. 5 after the South Austin Coalition Community Council intervened, as first reported by Austin Weekly News. White received a shut off notice on July 18 and contacted SACCC’s office.
Activists there advised her to have her doctor forward a statement outlining her family’s medical conditions to ComEd. Her daughter, Destiny, 2, is developmental delayed and her son, Lawrence, 6, suffers from Autism. White, 40, is an asthmatic suffering from diabetes, hypertension and is prone to seizures
White also asked ComEd to put her on a deferred payment plan for her $1231.57 electric bill, which she said she is unable to pay because she on disability. White believes the high bill came from using space heaters during last winter’s frigid weather.
After repeated calls from Austin Weekly after our story was published, ComEd officials said they would take the doctor’s statement in consideration, but at that time had no record of receiving it.
In a later email statement sent to the paper, ComEd officials acknowledged that they did receive a doctor’s statement on White’s behalf, which led the company to restore her electricity on Aug. 4. They contend, however, that White has not requested being placed on a deferred payment plan at this time.
SACCC’s Elce Redmond believes getting White’s electricity reconnected should not have taken a newspaper article and a community organization to do so. He said ComEd needs a more coherent policy in dealing with electricity shut offs.
ComEd, he added, should have a much easier process for a doctor or caregiver to submit information seeking a delay in disconnecting service. Redmond also questioned how many other people are going through this process, but don’t have a community organization working on their behalf.
Carter, though, was thankful for the assistance.
“It was a big plus because we still would be fighting the battle,” he said.