Assemblymember Cusick Urges PSC to Investigate COVID-19 Impact on Energy Customers

April 21, 2020

Staten Island – Assemblymember Michael Cusick (D-Mid Island) issued a letter today urging the Public Service Commission to investigate and respond to the impact the COVID-19 Pandemic is having on residential and small business utility customers.

“The COVID-19 Pandemic is affecting each and every New Yorker in dramatic ways. We have to do everything possible to support people once we reach the other side,” Cusick said. “While I am appreciative of the fact that the state has banned utility shut offs during the pandemic, the reality is, this crisis will be felt for some time and we need to chart a path forward that protects the physical and economic wellbeing of our neighbors.”

Cusick’s letter requested a thorough “review of current utility rate plans, rate cases under consideration, and pending cases in light of the Pandemic to ensure ratepayers are not unduly burdened in the aftermath. This proceeding should include an order for utilities to file austerity plans with the PSC to ensure critical services are maintained without increasing customer costs.”

Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project, added, "PULP thanks Assemblymember Cusick for his leadership and support of the countless number of utility customers who are struggling to pay their electric, gas, water and telecommunications bills during the health pandemic and economic downturn. We need a statewide, uniform plan to protect customers and help them get back on their feet. We believe that Assemblymember Cusick's letter and PULP's petition, "20-M-0198" will hopefully result in the creation of such

a plan."

“I strongly believe that now is the appropriate time to begin planning the exit strategy for utility customers who will struggle, or be unable, to keep up with utility rate payments once the economy has reopened,” Cusick said.

One of the effects of the Pandemic, which has seen non-essential businesses shut down, schools closed, and office jobs shifting to telecommuting, has been a decrease in electricity demand. However, Cusick noted that, while overall demand may be down, the demand has also shifted so that residential customers are shouldering a greater burden than usual.

“We used to turn the lights off, lower the air conditioning, and unplug our phones when we left the house to go to work,” Cusick said. “Now we’re staying home all day and paying the price. The efforts our friends and family members are making to flatten the curve should be met with corresponding effort at the state level to keep the lights on, even after we begin to return to work and school.”

According to PULP, “it is almost certain that the number of households over sixty days late paying their electric and gas bills will at least double - to two million - by June. … PULP is therefore gravely concerned by the eventuality that these households may be subject to service termination upon the expiration of the [Governor’s] PAUSE order, at the same time as the cessation of the eviction and foreclosure moratoria.”

Anyone who has questions related to their utility service is encouraged to contact Cusick’s office at: cusickm@nyassembly.gov.