New York policy makers grapple with unpaid utility bills
- Mar 26, 2021 1:58 pm GMT
Lawmakers in New York State are working to extend a moratorium on utility shut-offs set to expire next week, even as utility regulators express concerns over past-due bills that have grown to more than $1 billion statewide.
The state Department of Public Service issued a report that said more than 1.2 million residential electric and gas customers across the state were more than 60 days past due paying their utility bills. Past-due bills in December alone were more than $1.25 billion, a 58% increase from the prior two Decembers.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Senate proposed measures that would extend the moratorium, and state regulators are working with utilities on arrears-management plans.
Cuomo's budget proposal would prohibit utility disconnections in regions that are under a continuing state of emergency, which would allow an extension of the current moratorium past March 31. The disconnect moratorium would apply to electric, gas, water, telecommunications, cable, and internet services. Utilities that fail to comply would be subject to penalties.
The senate bill would extend the moratorium to 180 days after the state of emergency is lifted.
Regulators outlined plans earlier in March for deferred payment plans and possible credits to help customers with their utility payments. The agency's acting deputy director Aric Rider was quoted as calling the past-due totals a "significant" concern and a "very significant issue for the utilities."
Residential customers facing overdue bills should have late payment fees waived for two years after the shut-off moratorium ends, the state said. It also recommended that the deferred plans waive interest fees. It also recommended that commercial customers, which were not covered by the no-shutoff moratorium, also be offered deferred payment plans with late fees waived.
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