Community activists are calling on the state to do more to help low-income customers afford utilities. Candace Dunkley has more on what people had to say at a public hearing Thursday.
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Chantell Thompson said she still remembers the day when she was pregnant and at home with her other children when the lights went off.
“I was very emotional, I was really crying, there’s nothing you can do you can’t heat up any food for your kid at all," she said.
Thompson said this happened because of a bill a family member she was living with owed. It’s an issue local activists said too many people experience.
“For folks who aren’t making a lot of money who are on fixed incomes, their utility bills can be up to 40 percent of their bills every month,” said Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson organizer Spencer Resnick.
"So we try to achieve a balance of assisting those customers who do have issues and also protecting the interest of our other customers as well. And because of that we do have some very extensive low-income programs,” said Central Hudson spokesperson John Maserjian.
And now the state is trying to increase access to programs. On Thursday night, the Public Service Commission held one of a series of public hearings being held throughout the state. The purpose of the meetings is to get feedback on a statewide proposal that wouldn't, among other things, make automatic enrollment for HEAP recipients and set aside $178 million for low-income assistance programs.
Members of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson said they want more to be done, including setting aside $800 million or more for programs and making programs available to people who qualify for any state assistance as opposed to just HEAP.
“So many of our members have these awful stories about getting shut off and we think that the proposal should start from throwing out a concrete number in a really significant way. Let's slash them in half or something like that," said Resnick.
The last public hearing will be on October 13 written and call in comments will be held until October 16.
"“The commission is going to take all the comments and questions that it’s received. [They will] bring it back and give due consideration, and as it moves forward, make recommendations,” said Public service Commission Spokesperson Jim Denn.
"Just do what’s fair. That’s all. Look into it and do what’s fair,” said Thompson.