KINGSTON, NY – Two Ulster County state political leaders strongly support allowing taxpayers’ money to help pay bills for overdue utility customers.
Senator Michelle Hinchey; D-Saugerties and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, support budget measures proposed by the state legislature to help fund bills due to, among others, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.
“We are at a time when approximately one in five New Yorkers – due to the pandemic and through no fault of their own – are more than sixty days behind on their utility bills, with the debt increasing by the day,” Hinchey said in a statement. “Our state needs to provide immediate utility assistance to help people get back on their feet, which is why our Senate House Budget Resolution proposed $400 million to help eliminate utility backlogs for our New Yorkers hardest hit.”
In February bills, Central Hudson said projected impacts on natural gas bills would be an average increase of about 19%; about 46% for electricity bills; and about 29% for combined electricity and natural gas bills. Last week, Central Hudson said residential electricity prices starting Friday, March 11 in the Mid-Hudson area will be 46% lower per kilowatt hour than the previous month.
“Continued volatility in energy markets is causing fluctuations in electricity and natural gas prices,” the utility said at the time. “Market analysts predict that energy prices will likely remain elevated through the year compared to last year due to an economic recovery, energy supply constraints, strong energy demands and ‘world events,’ the company added.
Hinchey said people are already struggling financially.
“People shouldn’t have to choose between paying their utility bill, paying their rent or putting food on the table and as budget negotiations continue I will fight to ensure this relief is included in the package. final budget,” Hinchey said.
Cahill felt the same way.
“Across New York, consumers are reeling from dramatically higher energy costs,” Cahill said in an email. “Here in the Hudson Valley, ratepayers are also dealing with outrageous billing errors from Fortis/Central Hudson. The relief we are proposing in the Assembly budget resolution would go a long way in helping many people in our state get back on their feet.
The Assembly’s budget proposal includes an allocation of $500 million for utility payments.
Joseph Jenkins, a spokesperson for Central Hudson, said the company prioritizes any help its customers can get.
“We welcome any assistance from the state that can help our customers,” Jenkins said in a statement. “We recognize the many challenges facing our customers, including the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflationary pressures and the recent increase in energy supply prices.”