Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Yorkers Face Possible Utility Shut-Offs Days Before Christmas

The average debt faced by those behind on utility bills in New York is an estimated $1300
The average debt faced by those behind on utility bills in New York is an estimated $1300

More than a million New Yorkers could face having their heat, lights or water shut off starting December 22nd. The New York Energy Democracy Alliance, a group of advocacy organizations, is calling for state action to help those months behind on utility bills. Organizing Director Amber Johnson said just three days before Christmas New Yorkers are having to decide on paying their rent or utility bills.

“You have to pick and choose what’s more important, and, you know, do I want to be housed before Christmas or do I want electricity? And which one can I keep together? And usually people say house,” Johnson said.

Starting last June, COVID effects allowed for a 180-day pause on shut offs. But that protection ran out December 20th. Johnson estimates the average debt of those behind on their bills is about 13-hundred dollars. The advocacy groups have come together to sign a petition urging New York Governor Kathy Hochul to act.

“There need to be some sort of emergency legislation or directive towards the public service commission to really cancel all these debts, right? There’s about 1.2 million New Yorkers more than 60 days behind their bills. That means there’s 1.2 million that could get a shut off the 22nd. So there has to be some sort of emergency action take,” she said.


The state Department of Public Service, meanwhile, is encouraging homeowners and renters to seek help through existing state programs.

Johnson said, however, those programs are insufficient. And she adds many of those currently struggling haven’t been in debt before and don’t know how to sign up for such assistance. She encourages those in fear of their utilities being cut off to not suffer in silence, spread the word of the cut offs, and work as a community.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.