AARP and PULP Repeat Call for Governor Hochul to Help Millions of New Yorkers Facing Potential Utility Shutoffs
As the COVID-19 pandemic heads toward its third year afflicting New York, more than 1.2 million households are behind on their energy utility bills, COVID-19 infections are soaring, and job losses have not fully been restored. AARP and the Public Utility Law Project (“PULP”) are again calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to extend the State’s moratorium on essential utility shutoffs so that she and the New York State Legislature can address this crisis in the 2022-2023 State Budget.
More than 1.2 million households are deep in utility arrears, leaving them owing more than $1.7 billion combined in energy bill payments. The number of people also behind on their telephone, water and high-speed internet bills is currently unknown, but likely to equal or exceed energy arrears.
“Without action from the Governor, time is almost up for New Yorkers behind on their utility bills,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “Shutoffs could begin on January 3, 2022, potentially leaving more than a million homes without heat, hot water, or lights in the depths of winter. It’s time for the Governor to extend the shutoff moratorium until the utility arrears crisis is resolved by our lawmakers.”
“New York is breaking new daily records in the amount of active COVID-19 cases, and millions of households are in the dark on what to do once their water, telephone and internet service can be shut off when the Moratorium ends on December 21,” said Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “We found out in 2020 and 2021 that internet service is vital for children to attend school remotely so they can stay safe, so that seniors and the medically vulnerable can use telemedicine to avoid infection, and so that we can all work or look for work from the safety of our homes. We urge Governor Hochul to proactively address this historic crisis and protect the State’s most vulnerable households without delay.”
Last month, ten organizations from across the state joined AARP and PULP in requesting that the Hochul Administration appropriate $1.25 billion in the 2022-2023 Executive Budget of the $12.5 billion federal American Rescue Plan (“ARP”) funds the State has received to help low- to moderate-income energy customers. As the pandemic worsens for our second long dark COVID winter, it is time for the Executive and Legislature to act again to protect New Yorkers and to use federal COVID relief funds to resolve this arrears crisis once and for all.
It is not equitable that only a few days into the New Year, financially vulnerable New Yorkers will be forced to choose between medicine, food or paying overdue utility bills, when New York has billions to address utility arrears. If left unresolved, the arrears crisis will reduce economic activity essential to preserving the viability of New York’s communities and small businesses, and deepen the gap between New York’s “haves and have-nots.”
AARP and PULP are recommending people call the New York State Public Service Commission toll free Hotline at 1-800-352-3377 with their concerns.
Media Contact: Jordan McNerney, jmcnerney [at] aarp [dot] org