An analysis by the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) shows that the number of households in New York state in arrears to electric and gas companies increased by one-third during COVID-19.

In March 2020, there were 948,177 accounts totaling $745 million. Currently, there are 1.2 million households that collectively owe in excess of $1.5 billion in back arrears on energy bills.

“It’s devastating,” Richard Berkley, the executive director of the Public Utility Law Project, told Capital Tonight.

In June, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended the public health emergency around COVID-19, the moratorium on utility disconnections that had been in place during COVID-19 ended as well. 

Now, thousands of households and businesses across the state are in danger of utility shutoffs.

However, if an account holder “self-certifies," he or she will receive a grace period through December 21.

“Self-certification is literally picking up the telephone and reaching out to the utility and saying ‘my finances have been harmed by the COVID pandemic.’ That’s it,” Berkley said. “You then say you want to claim your six-month grace period.”

The idea behind the grace period is for people to get their economic feet back under them.

If your gas, electric, water, broadband and/or telephone utility isn’t willing to grant you a six-month grace period, call the New York State Public Service Complaint Line at 1-800-342-3377. 

“After December 21, more than 1.5 million households are in danger of being shut off,” Berkley said.  “And just to make it simple? If you lose water, your children can be taken away and put in the foster care system, because you are a per se negligent parent.”