NY’s utility moratorium expires days before Christmas

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The sun sets behind power lines in Los Angeles, California on September 3, 2020, ahead of a heatwave to arrive September 4 through the Labour Day weekend prompting a statewide flex alert. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- New York’s utility moratorium is set to expire on December 21 and close to 1.2 million New Yorkers were more than 60 days behind on their utility bill in November, according to the Alliance for a Green Economy.

The utility moratorium was extended in May by former governor Andrew Cuomo. It appears as of Friday, Governo Kathy Hochul has no plans to extend it any further.

“While the utility shutoff moratorium that was originally enacted by the State Legislature in May 2020 will end on December 21, 2021, consumers have several options to ensure they are not disconnected,” the Governor’s office said.

The Alliance for a Green Economy wants Gov. Hochul to extend the moratorium or do away with utility debt entirely. They said utility companies haven’t done enough to help communities and ultimately value their shareholders over customers.

“The utilities and the Public Service Commission have known that crushing utility debt and a massive wave of shutoffs was a looming possibility since June 2020,” said Alliance for a Green Economy, Deputy Policy Director, Avni Pravin. “They have still not done enough to remedy the unaffordability of energy and the ‘solutions’ that have been thus far proposed mostly just ensure that shareholders will continue to make exorbitant profits through additional surcharges on our energy bills.”

New York State Public Service Commission regulations prevent utilities from being disconnected for a two-week period surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day for residential customers, according to the Governor’s office. They said there are programs still available to help people with utility bills.

“Disconnecting service is always the last resort in resolving a customer bill,” said a National Grid spokesperson. “Numerous notifications and outreach to the customer are completed before a customer is disconnected from service. In addition, to protect the safety of our customers, National Grid will not disconnect power or natural gas service during colder temperatures.”

Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)

  • Residents can check their eligibility and sign up for the program on the state’s website. Eligible residents may be able to receive up to $751 for heating assistance.
  • Beginning January 3, 2022, residents already receiving HEAP can apply for emergency funds if they are in danger of getting their heat disconnected or may run out of heating fuel.

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)

  • According to the Governor’s office, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) is working to get money to approximately 77,000 people who applied for the ERAP for overdue utility bills.
  • OTDA is also offering up to $10k for past due utility bills to residents eligible for HEAP but do not qualify for rent relief.
  • OTDA is only accepting new ERAP applications for the following counties: Dutchess County, Nassau County (not including the towns of Hempstead or Oyster Bay), Niagara County, Oneida County, Saratoga County, Suffolk County (not including the towns of Brookhaven or Islip), Westchester County (not including the city of Yonkers).
  • New applications for the state-funded emergency rental assistance will be accepted from households with an income that’s between 80-120% higher than their area’s median income.

Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program

  • This program opened on Friday, December 17 and will be giving out $69.8 million in funding to help New York residents pay for overdue water and wastewater bills. The program will give up to $2,500 for overdue water bills, and up to $2,500 for overdue wastewater bills to avoid and service disruptions when the moratorium expires.

The Governor’s office said as of December 10, $18.5 million in HEAP benefits have been distributed to 588,428 households. Another $116.5 million has been given to approximately 65,000 households who got help through the Regular Arrears Supplement (RAS).

National Grid said they are extending the moratorium through March 31, 2022, for customers who have applied for programs like HEAP and the RAS program. They said they have launched multiple initiatives to help customers understand options that may be available to them.

National Grid said customers can learn more about getting help to pay their bill on the company’s website.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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