Trudy-Ann Bowen-Griffiths says that, three years ago, her one-year-old son -- who was born premature -- was hooked up to a machine at home when someone from Central Hudson came to cut off the electric service.
"As he’s on the machine, getting treatment, they came in and they shut off," she said. "The gentleman was notified that there was a child there that’s sick and there’s medical documentation there. He said he didn’t care, they had an order, and he had to shut it off.”
She says her bill at the time was about $14,000, and Central Hudson would not issue a payment plan.
"They tell you that if you can’t pay it, then they don’t know what to do," Bowen-Griffiths said. "Social Services is the worst place to go. If you’re working, they are not going to help you anyway."
Bowen-Griffiths says that eventually changed when she contacted her state senator. But even with the payment plans, her bills were too high.
Jonathan Bix, the executive director of the group Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, says Bowen-Griffiths is not alone. Bix says since the end of 2014, members have spoken with more than 2,000 Central Hudson customers and surveyed more than 100. They found that Central Hudson had a pattern of cutting off power for people with medical conditions.
One study of 75 households also found that shutoffs disproportionately affected black and Latino customers.
"In some limited data that we found, about 69 percent of those who experienced shutoffs were women, and about 62 percent were people of color," Bix said.
"It's a very objective system," Central Hudson spokesperson John Maserjian said. "It doesn't take into account a person's demographics whatsoever."
Maserjian also says the company will not cut off power for people with proper medical documentation who also meet the income guidelines. But there is one complaint made by Nobody Leaves Mid Hudson -- that Central Hudson admits to and says is legal: the transferring of debt to a family member who may not be on the bill.
“It's generally between spouses or generally between people with the same name," Maserjian said. "There may be cases where that did not occur; in those cases, we need to correct that.”
Nobody Leaves Mid Hudson says the transfer of debts is illegal. They’re hoping the investigation can bring clarity to the law. As for Bowen-Griffiths, she is hoping the investigation brings change.
“I don’t think money should go in front of a person’s life," she said, "because there is no price for a life.”