During PG&E’s latest round of power shutoffs to reduce fire risk, the utility worked with local independent living centers to provide back-up power and hotel vouchers for people with disabilities.
One such center is FREED, an independent living center in Nevada City whose mission is to provide services and advocacy for the elderly and people with disabilities, such as blindness or requiring a wheelchair for transportation.
PG&E has provided FREED an estimated $500,000 in batteries and $700,000 for other supplies including gas, transportation, and hotel vouchers, according to FREED executive director Ana Acton. She could not provide estimates of how many individuals this has helped due to the rapidity and urgency of needs. They hope to have accurate estimates of funding received and people helped by next Tuesday.
For batteries, FREED prioritizes people that have life-saving medical equipment and assistive technologies, says Acton. Hotel vouchers are provided for people that are particularly sensitive to cold temperatures due to chronic health conditions, like lupus or other autoimmune conditions.
According to the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, which oversees and advocates for disabilities rights at independent living centers, there are 28 centers across California. It is uncertain whether PG&E is assisting all 28 centers. One group that continues to fight for disabilities rights in California is the non-profit Designing Accessible Communities.
According to Richard M. Skaff, its founder and executive director, it was unlawful for PG&E to implement the shut-offs without realizing its consequences on people with disabilities because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public areas. He has been working with PG&E’s ADA agent for the past 6 months.
As a paraplegic with extensive background in advocating for disabilities rights, Skaff has also worked with many organizations to try to solve issues with PG&E power shut-offs. He urges PG&E to adopt better electrical technologies and to use renewable energy.
When asked to comment on any partnerships with non-profits, a PG&E spokesperson stated they could not provide comments on work with non-profits at this time.