Image: WPVI

No one should ever die because they can’t pay their fucking electric bill, but we live in a country where being poor is regarded more as a moral failing than a result of deliberate policies meant to enrich only those at the very top.

Last week, 68-year-old New Jersey resident Linda Daniels, who relied on her electricity-powered oxygen tank to breathe, died last week, after her utility company cut off power to her home over unpaid bills.

Her daughter Desiree described to a New Jersey news station how she pleaded with PSEG, the local utility provider, to turn her mother’s electricity back on, to no avail. “One rep told me to stop calling, that there were too many tickets in the system,” she said. “PSEG said ‘Oh, we’re on our way’, kept telling us that, but no one showed up.”

Last year, the NAACP released a report that detailed the often devastating cost of utility shutoffs, from fatal fires resulting from people being forced to resort to candlelight after their electricity is cut off to deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. In an article about the NAACP report, Think Progress noted that “among households at or below 150 percent of the poverty level, those headed by African-Americans were more than twice as likely to endure power shutoffs as those headed by white Americans.”

Daniels was steadily paying off her outstanding balance. Two days before she died, she had sent in $500 to the utility company. Power, incidentally, was restored to Daniels’ home the day after her death.