New York lawmakers, led by state Sen. Kevin Parker and Assemblymember Michaelle Solages, have proposed legislation designed to automatically enroll eligible households in utility companies’ energy assistance programs.
The proposal, supported by AARP New York and the Public Utility Law Project, aims to assist the 1.1 million households in the state that are currently eligible for but not receiving utility bill assistance. With 1.2 million households falling behind on utility payments, totaling a debt of $1.7 billion, the initiative comes at a time when rising inflation is burdening households.
The legislation is particularly focused on those households that receive public assistance but miss out on home energy assistance due to paperwork requirements.
Existing regulations enable households already under the federal Home Energy Assistance Program to be automatically enrolled in utilities’ assistance programs. However, low-income utility customers not enrolled in the program must independently navigate the process. Advocates, including AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel, see the legislation as a “straightforward fix” and a significant first step in expanding the “benefits matching” concept to more assistance programs.
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