As we approach April 4, 2023, and the upcoming election, it is of utmost importance that Black and Brown voters understand the significance of their power and influence.
On April 4, two referendums are likely to appear on the ballot: an advisory question asking whether adults should have to actively seek work to continue receiving taxpayer-funded benefits, and a constitutional amendment changing the basis for how judges set cash bail in the state.
The proposed work requirement referendum seeks to require Medicaid recipients to spend 80 hours (about 3 and a half days) a month working, in job training, engaging in community service or participating in a work program. This can be seen as particularly burdensome for those who already face economic disadvantages due to systemic racism and poverty such as many black Americans. Being unable to meet these requirements could lead to being cut off from essential benefits or being subject to high fines.
The proposed constitutional amendment also stands to disproportionality affect members of the black community by altering current cash bail practices.
Currently, judges have discretion when setting cash bail amount based on an individual’s risk assessment score which factors in criminal history amongst other considerations. If passed, judges will no longer be able consider an individual’s ability to pay when determining bail amounts which could lead disproportionately more black defendants remaining incarcerated during pre-trial proceedings due to their inability pay cash bail amounts that they may not have been able afford prior anyway due structural racism and poverty.
Energy burden (high energy bills) is also on the ballot, We Energies still has a long way to go in order to create equity and parity among all rate payers. Currently, corporate / industrial customers pay less than residential customers, solar energy is being “redlined” in Milwaukee, and We Energies does not appear to be making changes to increase its diversity spend or hire people of color.
What's Next: Wisconsin Public Service Commission Docket 5-UR-110 70 , Alternative Low-Income Assistance Program Pilot.
In the final decision rendered by the WI PSC in the 2022 rate case, We Energies is required to cooperate with the Citizen Utility Board and Walnut Way in developing this alternative low-income assistance program. The PSC docket is set to open by April 1, 2023.
In order to make this initiative a success, we need all hands on deck - it’s a legal pathway for systems change, that directly impacts energy burdened families in Milwaukee, both renters and homeowners, regardless of race or ethnicity.
The percentage of income payment program for utility bills will be an important part of managing household finances and ensuring financial stability. This program allows households to pay a set amount each month based on their income level, as a portion of their overall monthly expenses.
Income-based payment programs can provide additional security and peace of mind for households who are struggling financially by ensuring they have access to necessary utilities even when money is tight. With this type of program in place, a household can rest assured that no matter what happens in terms of changes in income level or emergency costs, they will always be able to pay their utility bills.
An income payment program can help reduce the amount of stress associated with worrying about paying these bills each month and ensure a more secure financial future for We Energies customers.
By EJII / Co-author Ms Stevens (Lindsay Heights resident)