May 24, 2016—In 2015, 2.8 million households in New York State paid 6 percent or more of their annual income on home energy bills according to the most recent Home Energy Affordability Gap. Of that number, 510,385 households paid a little over a quarter of their income on energy bills. To put that in perspective, middle- and upper-income customer energy burdens generally range from 1 to 5 percent of their annual household income.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced early last week the creation of the state’s first uniform, statewide Energy Affordability Policy, which will increase the state’s direct financial assistance to utility discount programs from $130 million a year to $248 million a year. After having received approval from the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC), the increased funding will aid over half a million more low-income customers and will increase the discount amount each recipient will receive. Eligible low-income electricity customers will receive monthly discounts between $11 and $44, while gas customers will see discounts ranging from $3 to $33.
In an effort to address the remaining 730,000 low-income households’ needs, Governor Cuomo has created an energy task force comprised of state agencies 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.”
Michael Corso, the Department of Public Service’s Consumer Advocate, stated that he is confident that by working with his fellow task force members they will be able to “maximize the benefits of [their] existing programs, improve them where necessary, and be able to reach all low-income households…”
In order to reach the additional 500,000 household target, the PSC has ordered all LIHEAP recipients be automatically eligible for the monthly utility discounts.
Sources: Press Release, Fisher Sheehan & Colton Home Energy Affordability Gap Data, LIHEAP Clearinghouse