As many households have lost one or two incomes due to furloughs and layoffs related to the COVID-19 crisis, residential electricity use is up. Lights and electronics are turned on for more hours per day as children are out of school and adults are working from home or out of work altogether. With increased utility bills and less money coming in, many households on Long Island are feeling the crunch. But relief is available.
Financial assistance programs are available to those who are struggling to pay their electricity and heating bills. Income-eligible households can receive help from both federally funded and PSEG Long Island-sponsored programs.
PSEG Long Island’s Household Assistance Program provides a credit on electric bills for customers who receive benefits from a federally funded program such as Medicaid, SNAP and Supplemental Security Income. Customers may be eligible to receive a monthly credit of $25 or more on energy bills, according to PSEG.
The utility’s Residential Energy Affordability Partnership, or REAP, helps residential ratepayers who meet certain income guidelines lower energy costs by finding energy-saving opportunities. A REAP technician conducts a free home energy assessment and provides the customer with ways to reduce energy consumption, such as using LED light bulbs. If the customer is eligible, the technician may also replace inefficient appliances with Energy Star models, at no cost to the customer. REAP has suspended the in-home visits during the COVID-19 crisis, but applications are being accepted to schedule visits when restrictions are lifted.
The Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, open for enrollment through June 30, is for help heating homes in winter. The federally funded program also offers an emergency benefit for those who have received a final termination notice on their bill; the benefit is also available through June.
Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered in March that utilities cannot shut off customers’ power, heat or water during the coronavirus emergency. However, customers who do not pay their bills will not have their debts forgiven and will have to catch up on their utility payments eventually.
“No one will lose their water because of this pandemic,” Suffolk County Water Authority Chairman Patrick Halpin said Monday. “Water will continue to flow.”
Mr. Halpin said people have enough on their minds to worry about — they don’t have to worry about their water being shut off. “No shut-offs, period, whether it is COVID-related or anything else,” he added.
Fines and penalties for unpaid water bills are being waived, and SCWA is prepared to set up extended payment plans for those who are struggling to pay.
The typical SCWA charge, for a homeowner using 160,000 gallons of water annually, is $450 per year, billed quarterly, Mr. Halpin said.
Those who wish to be put on a payment plan should call SCWA customer service at 631-698-9500.
For more information on PSEG Long Island financial assistance programs, visit psegliny.com/myaccount/customersupport/financialassistance. For more information on HEAP and federal programs, visit otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/. For more information on energy and money-saving programs and tips, visit psegliny.com/efficiency.
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