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AARP, PULP Commend PSC Action Eliminating Utility Debt for 478,000 NY Households

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ALBANY—AARP New York and the Public Utility Law Project (“PULP”) today applauded the New York State Public Service Commission’s order that will eliminate utility debt for another 478,000 households across the state that are currently behind on their electric and gas bills because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The agency’s action approves assistance totaling $672 million to help pay off unaffordable past due utility bills owed by residential customers and small commercial customers who aren’t eligible for energy assistance programs for low-income households. The PSC’s order comes seven months after a previous order providing nearly $500 million in overdue utility bills for 334,000 low-income households as part of Phase 1 of the Utility Arrears Relief Program.

Beth Finkel, State Director of AARP New York, and Laurie Wheelock, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project (“PULP”), applauded today’s PSC order.

“The utility arrears crisis in New York State needed leadership from the highest levels of state government and today it got just that,” Finkel said. “AARP commends the leadership of Governor Hochul and all the work the Public Service Commission did to help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to keep their heat and lights on. Many of our 2.3 million members in New York State will be directly affected by implementation of Phase 2 as beneficiaries of utility arrears relief, which comes at a time when too many older New Yorkers find their finances stretched thin by rising costs and inflation.”

“Today’s historic commission order is a lifeline to fixed- and moderate-income residential and small commercial customers that were not eligible for relief under Phase 1 of the State’s utility debt relief program,” Wheelock said. “Phase 2 will provide necessary financial relief and also protect nearly 500,000 residential households from utility shutoffs during the coldest months of winter. PULP thanks the Governor, the PSC, and all the stakeholders in the Energy Affordability Working Group for their efforts to develop such a program. We look forward to continued engagement with the group to advance other measures that bolster enrollment in bill discount programs, reduce energy burdens, and improve overall affordability.”

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