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AARP: Propane Shortage to Send NY Heating Bills Soaring

Contacts: David Irwin dirwin@aarp.org; Erik Kriss 518-360-9213, ekriss@aarp.org  

propane chart
 Assoc. Warns Propane Bills Could Soar 20%; Electric Rates Already up by 6% in Last Year - a Perfect Storm for NY Kitchen Table Economies 


NEW YORK, New York – If New Yorkers thought the never-ending cold snap couldn’t get any worse, AARP says they should check their next utility bill. A new study by the Association finds that due to a shortage, propane bills in the region could soar by over 21% for older consumers. Couple that with a 6% jump New Yorkers have seen in their already highest-in-the-continental U.S. electric rates over the last year and AARP warns it's a perfect storm that could take a harsh toll on kitchen table economies across the state,

“The cold snap coupled with a propane shortage and rising electric rates could be the unexpected factor that simply breaks some New Yorkers’ kitchen table economies,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State.

The latest reports from the U.S. Energy Information Association and an analysis by AARP’s Public Policy Institute mean New York families will have to budget more to cover the basic necessity of heating their homes this winter. The hardest hit by soaring home heating bills is the elderly, who pay more out of their household budget to cover heating bills than any other age group.

New Yorkers currently are paying 52% higher electric rates than the national average, a recent analysis of most utility costs combined (electricity, phone, T.V., high speed internet and natural gas) by WhiteFence, found New Yorkers pay the 3 rd highest overall bills in the nation.

“For older New Yorkers, when their utility bills go up, they are forced to make hard choices, sometimes between paying the bills and filling a prescription,” added Finkel.  “They need a voice and a seat at the table to fight unfair rate hikes and regulatory changes that will impact them.”

The high prices are taking a toll: already, many low- and moderate-income seniors and families are falling behind in making payments for high-priced utility service in New York, where average residential electric rates are second costliest in the nation, behind only Hawaii.

Many hard-pressed New York ratepayers incur additional late payment charges and face shutoff of essential electric or gas service as a bill collection measure. New York utilities shut off power to about 284,000 households in 2011.

“For older New Yorkers, when their utility bills go up, they are forced to make hard choices, sometimes between paying the bills and filling a prescription,” added Finkel.  “They need a voice and a seat at the table to fight unfair rate hikes and regulatory changes that will impact them.”

AARP says the perfect storm this winter makes the perfect case for change, and the Association is pushing for a new independent utility consumer advocate office in New York state with the power to sue over unfair rate hikes - and watch out for consumers’ best interests.

The state Assembly passed a bill last year sponsored by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) to create an independent utility consumer advocate office – as 40 other states and the District of Columbia already have. The state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, part of a governing majority coalition with the chamber’s Republicans, supports the bill as part of its 2014 agenda. The Senate version is sponsored by IDC member Diane Savino of Staten Island.

AARP is urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to adopt his own Moreland Commission on Utility Storm Preparation and Response’s recommendation and include an independent utility consumer advocate office in an amended 2014-15 Executive Budget proposal, giving residential ratepayers the meaningful seat at the regulatory table they need. The issue was absent from the Governor’s original budget proposal last week, but he has 30 days to file amendments.

The Association is also reminding New Yorkers that $50 million in additional Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) funds are now available to help offset high heating bills for eligible households.  The funds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  AARP warns the money goes quickly and is urging those who need the help and qualify to apply now ( apply online or print application). New York households can be eligible for up to $650 in HEAP.  Full eligibility requirements, such as size of household and gross monthly income can be found on the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance site.

 

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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin;  www.aarp.org ; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at  www.aarp.org .

 

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