Niagara Mohawk will stop collecting security deposits and refund the deposits it has already collected after opposition from the public and pressure from the Assembly forced them to back down. Assemblymember Crystal Peoples (D-Buffalo) said, "This is a great example of what collective advocacy can accomplish when enough people come together as a united front and voice their opposition or support for an issue.
"This is New York - our winters are brutal. Heat and electricity are not luxuries here. They’re absolutely critical for survival," Assemblymember Peoples stated. "Everyone agrees that people should pay their bills, but economic hardship shouldn’t force a person to live in a home with sub-zero temperatures."
Ms. Peoples spoke out against a Niagara Mohawk proposal that would have required certain customers seeking electric and gas service to pay a two-month deposit – a huge burden for low-income families trying to make ends meet on a tight budget. The state Public Service Commission refused to accept the company’s deposit proposal, effectively killing it, and thereby requiring the utility to return the deposits it has already collected.
Assemblymember Peoples is also supporting a bill to permanently bar public utilities from collecting security deposits or prepayments (A.8918).
Assemblymember Peoples concluded, "Niagara Mohawk needs to come up with another way of addressing the problem of delinquent bills without creating permanent barriers to basic services. I intend to fight to make sure that such a misguided policy is never enacted."