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On Cold Nights, Not Everyone Can Afford Heat

November 14, 2013 | WMFE--Some Central Floridians might have woken up to heated homes today after last night's cool weather. For others, heat might not be an option. Florida is one of only two states that have no special protections for disconnection of utilities in extreme weather.

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Unlike in most states, cold is more deadly in Florida than heat.  That's according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study from 2000.  A frail, elderly person can develop hypothermia with home temperatures in the 60s.

Those factors send some Central Floridians to homeless shelters.  “There are times that we have had people we accommodate who may have a place to live, but who can’t pay their bills,” says Muffet Robinson, communications director for the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.  “We have had, in the past, moms with kids.”

She says, when the temperature dips below 40, her organization declares a “cold night” and lets anyone stay at its shelters.

Florida does allow consumers to apply for low-income energy discounts and for medically essential electricity, but it doesn’t hold utility companies liable for infractions. 

Wednesday night, temperatures reached the 50s, but Central Florida winters can dip below freezing.  Orlando’s record low is 19 degrees, set in January 1985.


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