BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Statewide protections for utility customers will expire on December 21. According to the Public Utility Law Project of New York, more than 1.2 million homes in the state are behind in payments as of September.
“If there’s no protections put in place moving forward, that means a lot of people are going to have a cold, cold winter,” Amber Johnson from the New York Energy Democracy Alliance said. “It’s severely important to be able to heat and cool and water and electrify your homes.”
Governor Kathy Hochul’s office says consumers “have several options to ensure they are not disconnected.”
- The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides federal funding to assist homeowners and renters with their heating costs during the cold weather months. Eligible homeowners and renters may receive up to $751 in heating assistance, depending on their income, household size and how they heat their home.
- HEAP also provides an emergency benefit starting Jan. 3 for those eligible households that have already received a regular HEAP benefits but are at risk of having their heat disconnected or running out of heating fuel.
- The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) is also offering up to $10,000 in utility arrears relief to those households that do not qualify for the rent relief program but are eligible for HEAP.
- The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program provides eligible individuals and families with up $2,500 for drinking water arrears and $2,500 for wastewater arrears to help them avoid service interruptions when the moratorium on shutoffs expires next month.
But Johnson says they’re fighting to stop utilities from being shut off.
“We want a full moratorium on shut-offs to be for around two years so people can rally catch up on stuff they’re behind,” Johnson said.
New York State public service regulations prohibit utilities from disconnecting residential customers for a two-week period, including Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“They keep putting band aids,” Johnson said. “Even if they extend the moratorium until the end of January, that’s still just a band aid. People are trying to piece things together and trying to make it every day.”