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As skyrocketing food and gasoline prices strain budgets, utilities are disconnecting many more customers who fall behind on their bills, and even moderate-income households are getting zapped.
Electricity and natural gas shutoffs are up at least 15% in several states compared with last year. Totals for some utilities have more than doubled.
"We're seeing a record number of shutoffs," says Mark Wolfe, head of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association, which represents programs that subsidize energy bills.
An NEADA survey this month shows 8% of four-member households earning $33,500 to $55,500 have had their power turned off for non-payment. "It's hitting people in the suburbs with two cars and two kids," Wolfe says.