According to Hochul’s office, the financial assistance program provides $567 million to help low-income electric and gas utility customers pay off past utility bills. It includes an estimated $557 million statewide COVID-19 bill credit program, adopted by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC).
The bill credit program provides financial relief to help many New Yorkers avoid having their utility services terminated, and more than 327,000 low-income households in New York will directly benefit, according to the governor’s office.
“Low-income customer credits are expected to be posted to customer accounts beginning August 1, 2022 and consumers can expect to see the credit on their next billing cycle,” Hochul’s office announced. “Credits will be received by the vast majority of low-income customers of the major electric and gas companies on their August bills.”
The rollout of the program “will be reflected on customers’ August bills” for those who are eligible and had enrolled in the Energy Affordability Program (EAP).
An announcement from Hochul’s office reads: “Under the bill credit program, the PSC leveraged $250 million from the FY 2023 Enacted State Budget to require utilities to provide a one-time credit to customers enrolled in the EAP that will eliminate unpaid utility bills that have accrued through May 1, 2022. The program also authorizes the same relief for any eligible low-income customers that enroll in EAP by December 31, 2022.”
The one-time utility bill credit will be applied to affected customers’ bills by the utilities, and requires no action by existing low-income customers enrolled in the EAP to receive the benefit, the governor’s office said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant financial hardship to many New York residents, leading to an increased number of customers who have unpaid utility bills since March 2020.
Hochul said in a statement that the effort is the “largest low-income utility financial assistance program in the state’s history.”
“No New Yorker should have their lights and air conditioning shut off as a result of financial problems caused by the pandemic. I applaud the State Legislature for their partnership to appropriate $250 million toward reducing the burden of utility arrears, which will be critical to helping vulnerable New Yorkers maintain their utility services, especially during these hot summer months,” she said.
People who need utility assistance can call the PSC’s helpline at 1-800-342-3377, and anyone eligible who enrolls in the EAP before Dec. 31 will be included in the bill credit program.