More than 331,000 Low-Income New Yorkers at Risk of Utility Shutoffs without Action in State Budget
PSC data: New Yorkers in energy assistance programs are behind more than $419 million out of the $1.7 billion in total utility arrears
ALBANY—Time is running out for Governor Kathy Hochul and state legislative leaders to tackle New York’s $1.7 billion utility arrears crisis, beginning with more than 330,000 low-income customers who are behind on their energy bills. One in five people in New York—including 331,992 customers in energy assistance programs—are now 60 or more days behind on electric or gas bills statewide according to Public Service Commission (PSC)/Department of Public Service (DPS) data. Arrears total $419,317,231 just for customers in low-income programs, with another $1.3 billion owed by moderate-income and other residential customers not enrolled in low-income programs.
AARP New York and the Public Utility Law Project (“PULP”) continue to urge leaders in Albany to address utility arrears in the final state budget being negotiated this week. A media report this week indicated lawmakers are considering including just $300 million in the budget for arrears—far less than the arrears of low-income New Yorkers and a fraction of the total even before recent energy bill surges drove countless thousands of additional New Yorkers into utility debt.
“Any amount short of $500 million to address utility arrears will leave New Yorkers in the dark,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “The alarming spikes in electric, natural gas and home heating oil bills are crushing the wallets of millions of low-income and middle-class New Yorkers and plunging many deeper into debt each day. Lawmakers must end the utility arrears crisis, or it will be a long time before many New Yorker fully recover from the pandemic.”
“We know that 331,000 of New York’s most financially vulnerable households are at risk of shutoffs beginning in late May and extending through June into the Fall,” said Public Utility Law Project Executive Director Richard Berkley. “What we don’t know are how many more low- and fixed-income are at in danger of shutoffs of heat or electric, water, and telephone and internet services since the State does not comprehensively track these customer arrears and collection activities. We will continue to advocate to make certain all of them can be enrolled in low-income utility programs so that the State has sufficient public data to help all vulnerable households rather than only a lucky few.”
AARP and PULP compiled regional arrears data reported to the DPS by the state’s utility providers:
New Yorkers struggling with their utility bills should contact the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, or Human Resources Administration in New York City to find discount programs and help paying down past-due bills.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/nearyou, or follow @AARPNY on social media.
PULP is New York’s sole independent organization dedicated to empowering and protecting the rights of low-income and fixed-income utility consumers. For 40 years, PULP has educated, advocated and litigated on behalf of affordability, consumer protection and universal access to utilities. To learn more, visit www.utilityproject.org, follow @utilityproject on Twitter, or visit PULP at www.facebook.com/utilityproject.