2009 Economic Security Wins in States
Consumers of all ages stretched their dollars further in 2009, thanks to state-level efforts by AARP
volunteers and staff on utilities, fraud, home mortgages and more. Our biggest utility win came in
Florida, where some 600,000 electricity consumers in the Tampa area were shielded from $90 million
of a proposed rate increase after AARP advocated for them.
Energy and Utilities
Hundreds of thousands of people who struggled to
pay their home-heating bills got additional help–
despite tight state budgets. That’s because AARP
joined with other consumer advocates to expand
energy-bill payment assistance in Alaska, Illinois,
Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Utah.
The New Jersey win was particularly important
because of the way state officials tackled a thorny
problem. The vast majority of customers age 50+ who
could have received help paying for home energy
there had not even applied for it, in part because the
application process was so cumbersome. But after
AARP worked with three state agencies, residents
who were enrolled in the state’s prescription drug
program and the Lifeline Utility Assistance Program
were automatically enrolled in the low-income energy
Natural gas, electricity and telephone customers were
also protected from higher rates following AARP’s
advocacy in a number of states, including Kentucky,
Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma.
‘Before You Invest, Ask and Check’
It is tough to change people’s behavior when it comes
to investment fraud. We began turning it around in
2009 by helping consumers learn how to outsmart
investor fraud. AARP and the Financial Industry
Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation
presented workshops focusing on common persuasion
techniques that fraudsters use, along with techniques
for avoiding them. This educational approach -- used
with investors in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina,
Vermont and Washington – will likely expand to
additional states in 2010.
Beyond that pilot program, AARP-backed laws
protecting older consumers from financial services
frauds were passed in Connecticut and Vermont.
Specific protections for senior investors were put in
place in Missouri and New Mexico.
Fighting Other Frauds
Iowa: For 10 years, Iowa held the dubious distinction
of being the only state that did not allow individual
consumers to sue for damages or seek a court
In Pennsylvania, almost 32,000 home-improvement
contractors registered with the state Attorney
General’s office, as required by an AARP-backed
state law that took effect July 1. The law requires
a contract for any job worth more than $500,
and contractors can be charged with a felony if
fraudulent charges exceed $2,000. Even tougher
penalties apply if the homeowner is older than 60.
injunction after they had been victims of consumer
fraud. The new Consumer Private Right of Action
gave them an avenue for relief after being victimized
by fraudulent auto dealers, mortgage lenders, home
improvement contractors and others.
To curb identity theft, credit-freeze protections were
passed in Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and North
Low-income Massachusetts residents who are
homebound or who have difficulty traveling
will find it easier to apply for the Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly
known as food stamps). The state heeded AARP’s
plea that certain enrollees be allowed to renew
their application for SNAP by telephone, rather
than in person.