As utility prices soar across the state, New Yorkers’ rates may be going up again. This time it’s not the utility companies making the decision, but New York government. A historic bailout may place a $672 million debt on all state ratepayers. This is on top of financial strain caused by a brutally cold December for most of the state.

WEST SENECA, NY - DECEMBER 26: Tom Witzleban clears his driveway on December 26, 2022 in West Seneca, outside Buffalo, New York. The historic winter storm Elliott dumped up to four feet of snow on the area leaving thousands without power and at least twenty five confirmed dead in the city of Buffalo. (Photo by John Normile/Getty Images)
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This winter already brought a 40% surge in heating costs for National Grid customers in Upstate. This followed a 30% increase the year before. The average bill increase in the last year alone is around $50 per month. With plenty of winter left to go, there are still plenty of high New York heating bills to pay.

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This bailout would focus on the hundreds of thousands of households and small businesses that owe back utility bills from the pandemic. National Grid says 70,000 Upstate customers owe $2,300 on average dating back to before May 2022.

A graph showing the number of New Yorkers behind on utility bills
New York State Comptrollers Office

While New Yorkers that owe are in danger of utility shutoffs during a dangerous time of year to not have heat, the $672 million owed would be spread across all ratepayers. This would seemingly include the ratepayers that owe the money in the first place.

Analysts Predict Home Energy Bills Will Rise Sharply In 2022
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With prices out of control, a decision to put a $672 million burden on all customers is a baffling one. If utility rates keep going up, its hard to imagine that those already behind on their payments will be able to magically start keeping up. It’s equally hard to imagine that New York’s utility companies would struggle with this loss.

New York State’s Public Service Commission will get the final say on the matter. The PSC’s seven members could vote in favor of relieving more than 50,000 businesses and 470,000 homeowners of partial or all debt as soon as January 19th. We won’t be told the plan’s full details until the PSC passes it.

The Aftermath Of Winter Storm Elliot In Buffalo and WNY

A Bomb Cyclone powered by Arctic air dumped more than four feet of snow on Western New York just before Christmas. Thousands were left without power and at least thirty have been confirmed dead in Buffalo. Homes along Lake Erie received the worst of the winter, with many frozen solid.

Despite a travel ban, residents left their homes in days after for groceries and to begin cleanup. State Troopers and military police have been trying to enforce the law as much as possible. Cleanup crews have been trying to clear as much of the snow as possible and dump it into Lake Erie, but the number of abandoned cars in streets and parking lots has slowed progress.

There's currently no monetary estimate of damage to the region.

Gallery Credit: Cameron Coats

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