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New PSC Rule Aims To Help Domestic Violence Victims
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One in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, and as MPB's Evelina Burnett reports, a Mississippi rule going into effect next month is intended to help victims get out of bad situations, quickly.

The new Public Service Commission rule will waive the utility deposit for domestic violence victims for 60 days. Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley says it goes into effect October 10.

"We know that a lot of times victims of domestic violence stay in a bad situation because they simply can't get the money together to pack up and move," Presley says. "So this gives a 60-day waiver on those utility deposits to allow them to get somewhere they can be safe and start over."

Wendy Mahoney, director of the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says the rule is a step in the right direction in that it provides an additional resource for victims.

"And also the way it is set up, they have to get a letter of certification from a domestic violence program, so that connects them with resources in their community, as well as assisting them by waiving [the deposit] for 60 days as they're re-establishing themselves," she says.

Still, it’s not clear how big an impact the measure will have. Sandra K. Morrison, head of the Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence, says many resource centers already try to help victims pay utility deposits outright or negotiate payment plans. She says a big help would be to assist victims with past-due accounts.

"With the Public Service Commission waiver, we really wish that it would have had something a little more substantial that would have really helped women, like waiving the arrears or waiving the deposit altogether," she says. "But we still have to thank the Public Service Commission for even looking at this and addressing it."

PSC Commissioner Presley says he'd be willing to consider additional programs to help domestic violence victims, but called the measure a good first step.

(Photo by Bidgee via Wikimedia Commons)