Assemblyman Michael Cusick sent a letter to the Public Service Commission on Friday, asking the office to investigate the impact COVID-19 has had on utility customers.
“While I am appreciative of the fact that the state has banned utility shut offs during the pandemic, the reality is, this crisis will be felt for some time," Cusick said. "And we need to chart a path forward that protects the physical and economic wellbeing of our neighbors.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on March 13, directing the State Department of Public Service to suspend public utilities from cutting off service, including power and heat, to people affected by COVID-19.
Cusick says while this is an important first step, there also needs to be plan for people who will most likely still be struggling to pay their utility bills once businesses start to reopen.
He also notes, that although businesses are using their utilities less, people at home are keeping their lights on more.
“We used to turn the lights off, lower the air conditioning, and unplug our phones when we left the house to go to work,” Cusick said. “Now we’re staying home all day and paying the price. The efforts our friends and family members are making to flatten the curve should be met with corresponding effort at the state level to keep the lights on, even after we begin to return to work and school.”
According to the Public Utility Law Project, the number of households that are over 60 days late in paying their electric and gas bills will double to around 2 million by June.
"PULP is therefore gravely concerned by the eventuality that these households may be subject to service termination upon the expiration of the [Governor’s] PAUSE order, at the same time as the cessation of the eviction and foreclosure moratoria,” said Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project.