California Power Outages: Associations Offer Assistance, Speak Up

As PG&E enacts major shutdowns of its power grid in a bid to prevent wildfires, groups in California’s medical and grocery fields have been working to find ways to serve vulnerable communities.

The state of California, facing a growing threat from wildfires, has increasingly used drastic measures in an attempt to keep those fires under control.

The most controversial of these have been power outages, particularly those undertaken by PG&E, the bankrupt utility that has shut off massive swaths of the power grid in an attempt to prevent fires caused by downed electrical equipment. (There is evidence that the efforts have not been successful, with at least one of the recent wildfires associated with PG&E equipment.)

The shutdowns have negatively affected people in the state who are particularly vulnerable to power outages—specifically those with medical needs and those with low incomes. In response to these concerns, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has teamed with groups in the nonprofit and association communities to assist with supportive services, such as access to medical devices and lifesaving medications.

An agency under Newsom’s wing, California Health and Human Services, has convened a Public Safety Power Shutoff Planning Team, which will work on strategies to assist the public amid planned power outages. Groups such as the California State Association of Counties, County Welfare Directors Association, California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, California In-Home Supportive Services Consumer Alliance, Disability Rights California, and California Association of Area Agencies on Aging will take part in the workgroup.

Additional associations are also helping the state. For example, healthcare organizations, including the California Association of Health Plans and the Local Health Plans of California, have been working with authorities to identify and contact those on health plans who rely on power-dependent medical equipment.

“Power shutoffs continue to put California’s most vulnerable residents at risk,” Gov. Newsom said in a news release. “These proactive steps will help us protect medically vulnerable residents and ensure that there is a continuity of care for individuals in health and community care facilities across the state.”

Associations are also speaking out for their members affected by the power outages. One example is the California Grocers Association, whose members have suffered financially because of the outages’ direct impact on perishable goods. CGA noted to the Wall Street Journal that while stores were buying generators, the costs were high—as much as $100,000 to buy and $20,000 per day to rent.

In a letter to the governor and PG&E [PDF], CGA’s president and CEO, Ron Fong, noted that generators to keep grocery stores open “were far and few between and also being sought out by several other industries.”

“Our concern is this broad reach of closures severely limits our ability to help the public, for them to acquire and maintain adequate food and water stores, as well as access to necessary health and safety items including medical prescriptions,” Fong wrote.

(Wako Megumi/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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