En español | As New Yorkers struggle to recover from the recession, many are also struggling with the high cost of their utility bills. New York’s utility prices are the third highest in the nation. An AARP survey, conducted earlier this year, revealed that 40% of New Yorkers age 50+ have difficulty paying their monthly electric bills. What’s more, older New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by high utility rates because they spend a higher percentage of their overall household budgets on energy costs.
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In its work to fight utility rate increases, AARP recently addressed a proposed decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that would have raised electricity prices for all New York City residents. FERC eventually reconsidered its decision.
But this victory can be small consolation to New Yorkers who have had their electricity or gas shut off because they cannot pay their bills. An AARP report released in March 2011, which analyzed data from the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), shows that last year 321,995 households statewide had their electricity and/or gas shut off – an average of 36 households every hour of every day.
According to the report, only two utilities significantly slowed down their terminations for non-payment in cold weather months. It also found the spring season to be particularly harsh on residential ratepayers since most utilities terminate service during this time. From April to June 2010, New York utility companies terminated service to 125,716 customers.
“The staggering number of shutoffs and people struggling to pay their bills provide ample grounds for the governor and state legislature to revisit New York’s policies supporting continuous utility service for residential customers and to re-examine whether we have sufficient consumer protection laws on our books,” says Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director.
Earlier this month, AARP joined Assembly Members Kevin Cahill, Guillermo Linares and Aravella Simotas to announce legislation calling upon New York State to review existing consumer protections for utility shutoffs and to place a moratorium on winter shutoffs until reviews are completed (A. 7778 and A.7777).
“As New Yorkers are struggling to recover from the recession, the increases in utility terminations are troubling and must be scrutinized. With rates continuing to climb, a comprehensive review of our consumer protection laws is not only timely but absolutely necessary,” said Assembly Member Kevin Cahill, Chair of the Assembly Energy Committee.
As AARP continues its work to keep utilities affordable and accessible to New Yorkers, it is working to pass these two bills before the legislative session ends on June 20.
Join us and take action in asking the New York State legislature to pass A.7777 and A. 7778 before June 20 by calling toll free, 1-866-227-7442 and asking for the AARP NY Legislative Office or emailing email@example.com.
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