Expansion of Financial Benefits for Low-Income Utility Customers

Expansion Adds $12 Million to Energy Affordability Policy, Bringing Overall Benefits to $260 Million

Provides Nearly Two Million Low-Income New Yorkers with Direct Energy-Cost Relief
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced an expansion of the first-ever Energy Affordability Policy, which will provide nearly two million low-income New Yorkers with direct energy-cost relief each year. The expansion adds $12 million to the initiative to allow 50,000 direct voucher and utility-guarantee customers to participate, bringing the total program benefits to $260 million.

“By helping more low income customers access affordable energy, this program delivers much-needed relief to New Yorkers who often have trouble paying their bills to keep their lights and heat on,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a major step in our efforts to ensure a cleaner and more resilient energy system for all New Yorkers.”

An order approved today by the Public Service Commission expanded upon Governor Cuomo’s Energy Affordability Policy by boosting program benefits from $248 million to $260 million. In addition, the Commission approved implementation plans for the major utilities operating in the State to increase the number of low-income households.

Under the new policy, depending on household income and presence of vulnerable residents, electric heating customers will receive monthly discounts up to $76, up from a maximum of $27 today. Gas heating customers will receive discounts up to $67, up from a maximum of $50 today. The budget will be capped at no more than 2 percent of utility revenues, a level found to be sufficient to meet the 6 percent energy burden goal for most utilities while balancing rate impacts on other classes of customers. A number of consumer advocacy groups fully supported expanding the number of low-income families being served.

This action builds on the policy announced last year by Governor Cuomo which limited energy costs for low-income New Yorkers to no more than approximately 6 percent of household income on average — half of what many New Yorkers are currently paying. The policy change resulted in increasing the number of low-income utility customers receiving monthly discounts from approximately 1.1 million customers to 1.7 million.

Governor Cuomo also directed a collaborative effort among state agencies, acting as a low-income energy task force, to develop new strategies so that all of the state’s 2.3 million households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level have greater access to clean energy and are better served by the state’s energy efficiency and assistance programs. The inter-agency task force is currently developing data-sharing opportunities to identify and help low- and moderate-income families participate in this new effort.