New York State law provides temporary shutoff protections of essential utilities and municipal services during the COVID-19 pandemic (“moratorium”). The moratorium is a grace period for customers to catch up on their bill and obtain financial assistance.
If you experienced a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are in arrears for your utility or municipal bills, you must self-certify to your utility or municipality to protect your account from shutoff. Utility companies and municipalities must also offer you a deferred payment agreement with no money down, late fees or interest, to help pay your arrears.
Taking the steps listed below will help reduce your balance. The moratorium will not pay your utility bills. Any unpaid balance will be due after the moratorium ends.
There are immediate steps you can take to protect your utility service:
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Q: Who is eligible for these protections?
- Contact your service provider:
Your first step is always to contact your utility or municipality. Utilities and municipalities must accept your self-certification that you experienced a change in financial circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect your account from shutoff.
- Ask for a deferred payment agreement:
A deferred payment agreement allows you to pay your arrears in affordable, installment payments. While the moratorium is in effect, utilities and municipalities are required to offer self-certifying customers a deferred payment agreement with no money down, late fees or penalties. Utilities and municipalities may require you to submit financial documentation. You are still responsible for your utility or municipal bill during and after the moratorium.
- Pay what you can:
While your account may be protected from shutoff, you are still responsible for the charges for service. Paying what you can afford now will help you avoid a larger bill later.
- Don’t wait until it’s too late.
These temporary protections will end in December 2021. The sooner you contact your utility, the sooner your account will be protected.
A: Residential and Small Business customers.
2. Q: What types of small business are eligible for these protections?
A: A small business must: a) have 25 or fewer employees; b) not be a publicly held company; c) not be a seasonal or temporary customer; and d) not be a high energy user.
3. Q: Are there special rules that small businesses must follow to receive these protections?
A: The small business must certify to its utility that it meets the eligibility requirements. The utility may notify the small business that the utility believes the business has the resources to pay its bill and therefore is not eligible for the moratorium protections. If the business disagrees, it may file a complaint about the utility’s decision with the Department of Public Service (see below).
4. Q: What utility and municipal services are covered?
A: Electricity, natural gas, steam, landline telephone, water, internet, and cable television.
5. Q: Which water systems are covered?
A: Private water companies and public (water district, city, town, village, and public authority) water systems.
6. Q: How do I self-certify to my utility or municipality that I’ve been financially impacted by COVID?
A: Residential customers: contact your utility or municipality and explain that you experienced a change in financial circumstances between March 7, 2020 and June 23, 2021 due to COVID. Your utility or municipality must accept your self-certification.
Small business customers: contact your utility or municipality and certify that your business was financially impacted by COVID and that it meets the eligibility criteria (see above).
7. Q: I need help paying my heating or cooling bill.
It is critically important for customers to call their utility as soon as possible to self-certify that they were financially affected by COVID. If you do not self-certify, the utility may proceed with shutoffs and collection activity.
A: Eligible residential customers should apply to the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) for help paying their heating and cooling needs. Beginning April 15, 2021, a third HEAP Emergency benefit is available for households to assist with their heating costs and covers utility and municipal electric and heating services as well as heating oil, propane, and wood. The HEAP cooling program opened on May 3, 2021. Contact your local Department of Social Services or https://otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/ for more info.
8. Q: Are there other assistance programs that can help pay my utility bill?
9. Q: What can I do if my utility does not protect my account?
A: Your first step is always to contact your utility and try to work it out with them. If you still need help after speaking with your utility, contact the Department of Public Service at http://www.dps.ny.gov/complaints or 1-800-342-3377 (Monday-Friday, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm).
Downloadable FAQs are being translated.
· English COVID-19 Utility Shutoff Moratorium FAQs 2021-08.pdf
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