AARP NY, PULP Applaud Governor for Proposal to Ban Utility Shutoffs During States of Emergency
State of State Legislation Would Apply to Internet –Growing Necessity During Pandemic – Electric, Telephone, Water, Telecommunications, Cable
ALBANY, N.Y. – AARP New York and the Public Utility Law Project today praised Governor Andrew Cuomo for proposing a continuing automatic moratorium on utility shutoffs in regions under a state of emergency.
The Governor announced the proposed legislation today as part of his State of the State Message. It covers electric, gas, water, telecommunications, cable and – significantly – internet at a time when the pandemic has made a reliable and affordable connection critical for millions of New Yorkers to “see” their doctor, shop for food, send their children and grandchildren to school remotely, access unemployment benefits and much more.
Governor Cuomo’s proposal builds on the legislation he signed last year to prohibit utilities from shutting off service to customers who have been unable to pay their utility bills because they lost their income due to the coronavirus pandemic (S.8113A-Parker/A.10521-Mosley).
In normal times, nearly a million New York households cannot pay their utility bills, and about a quarter of them may be at risk of having their electric, telephone or water service disconnected. The economic fallout from COVID-19 has made utility bills unaffordable for even more New Yorkers; currently more than 1.1 million households are 60 days or more in arrears.
“Staying safe and staying inside is critical, but consumers without power, water, telephone service and, increasingly, an internet connection, won’t be able to stay safely in their homes or call for medical or other help during this and future crises,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “AARP New York applauds the Governor for this proactive move to protect economically ravaged consumers and allow them to begin repairing their finances before being subjected to collection activity. We urge state lawmakers to work with the Governor to ensure this proposal becomes law.”
“The Governor’s proposal speaks deeply to our values as New Yorkers – we do not hesitate to take action to avert disparate impacts upon seniors and medically fragile households, low-income households and communities of color, the kind of harmful impacts that are the hallmark of the rampant coronavirus pandemic, which is continuing to worsen and is intensified by the new mutated strain of COVID-19” said Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the fastest and deepest loss of jobs and economic activity in New York since the Great Depression, and the Governor’s leadership in proposing to extend vital protections allowing sheltering in place and continued economic activity and education will save many thousands of lives and prevent millions of New Yorkers from suffering even greater economic harm and unnecessary exposure to COVID during this crisis.”
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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the world’s largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.
The Public Utility Law Project of New York, Inc. (“PULP”) is a nonprofit public interest law firm with the mission of educating, advocating and litigating on behalf of low- and fixed-income utility consumers in matters affecting affordability, universal service, and consumer protection. Learn more at www.utilityproject.org, or www.facebook.com/utilityproject, and follow us on Twitter @utilityproject. Learn about your utility rights during this pandemic at bit.ly/pulp-covid-19.