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El Paso halts utility shutoffs, bans price-gouging during virus emergency

Lakana file
A woman counts money to pay bills.

EL PASO, Texas -- El Pasoans won't have to worry about their utilities being disconnected for late payment during the city's coronavirus emergency.

El Paso City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance taking effect immediately that contained a couple of measures to help residents as they isolate to try and help slow the spread of the virus.

One measure prohibits any utility provider from cutting off service due to past due bills while the city emergency declaration is in effect.

Another portion of the ordinance bans price-gouging by stores and businesses during the crisis. Price hikes on items including groceries, restaurant meals, medicine, toiletries, gasoline, furniture, clothing, construction and plumbing supplies and apartment rentals were prohibited. (See the document at the bottom of this article for the complete list.)

Council approved the emergency ordinance at a special session on Tuesday. It also urged employers in the city to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to workers who contract the virus, but that item was not mandated.

Also under the ordinance, bars were being told to close and eateries were being told to operate at half capacity.

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Jim Parker

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