Low-income families in New York that are struggling to pay their energy bills will receive a boost with a one-time credit meant to help them pay down the arrears, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office on Thursday announced. 

The credit is part of a program that was formally adopted by the state Public Service Commission, with $250 million set aside in the state budget earlier this year.

Utility customers who are enrolled in the Energy Affordability Program will have their unpaid utility bills that accrued through May 1 of this year eliminated. Eligible customers enrolled in the affordability program by Dec. 31 could also qualify.  

Funds are expected to be sent out no later than Aug. 1. 

The program is meant to provide aid to families that have struggled financially during the pandemic to pay their bills.  

"It's unacceptable that far too many New Yorkers are at risk of having their lights shut off for failure to pay their utility bills due to financial problems caused by the pandemic," Hochul said. "To address this, I partnered with the State Legislature to appropriate $250 million toward reducing the burden of utility arrears. Today's action by the Public Service Commission builds on the budget appropriation and is a major step forward to help vulnerable New Yorkers maintain their utility services while they get back on their feet."

The creation of the program was lauded by advocates, including the AARP New York. 

“Ending the utility arrears crisis is imperative for New York to recover from the pandemic, especially for older New Yorkers with low or fixed incomes,” said Beth Finkel, the group's executive director. “Today’s PSC Order will offer help to those who need it most while ensuring more New Yorkers who are eligible for utility discounts receive them in the long-term. AARP thanks the PSC for supporting the state’s utility customers and keeping the lights and air conditioning on this summer.”