More than a million households in New York have fallen behind on their energy, water, phone and internet bills since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which has created a utility crisis in the city. ‘State.
Advocacy groups say that without a resolution in the state’s 2022-2023 budget, the crisis will continue to escalate.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) are urging Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to include a resolution in the budget to process the billions owed by New Yorkers in unpaid energy. , water, telephone and broadband internet bills.
At least $1.7 billion is owed in unpaid energy and utility bills, along with hundreds of millions more in phone, water and internet arrears.
Between February 2020 and December 2021, energy service consumer debt increased by more than $960 million, the letter to Heastie and Stewart-Cousins says.
In October 2021, the U.S. government said it expected households to see their heating bills rise 54% from last winter, making it harder to catch up for those already in behind on their bills.
The government released a separate report showing that prices were 5.4% higher for US consumers in September 2021 than in September 2020. This matches the highest rate of inflation since 2008, when an economy that wakes up and struggling supply chains are driving up the prices of everything from cars to groceries.
The groups are calling for $1.25 billion of US federal bailout funds to be allocated in the 2022-23 state budget.
They are also seeking authorization for $200 million for a dollar-for-dollar state sales tax to be available for the rebate of non-energy utilities for low- or fixed-income households.
“Without action from Albany, the risk of wholesale utility cuts increases every day,” said Beth Finkel, AARP’s New York State Director.
“Recent state reports of doubling and tripling energy bills will only push more New Yorkers into debt from which they may not recover. It is time for New York State leaders to address this growing crisis,” Finkel continued.
“Even before the spike in bills affecting New York, one in five New Yorkers was deeply in debt to utilities with little chance of ever paying off their financial health,” said PULP executive director Richard Berkley. “Implementing the simple three-part plan that PULP, AARP, and our partners have advanced will avert multigenerational poverty caused by COVID-19, ease the additional damage created by soaring bills, and ‘pave the way for economic recovery in our communities’.