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Workshop seeks to help low-income New Yorkers slash their utility debt with a state program

PSEG Long Island electric substation in Rockaway Beach, N.Y.
J.D. Allen
PSEG Long Island electric substation in Rockaway Beach, N.Y.

Nearly 10,000 low-income PSEG Long Island and National Grid customers have the opportunity to eliminate their utility debt through a new state program in New York.

The Long Island Progressive Coalition and Public Utility Law Project of New York are hosting a workshop in Riverhead on Wednesday, Aug. 24, to help get eligible Long Islanders enrolled.

Laurie Wheelock, the law project's deputy director and counsel, said some people may be enrolled without knowing.

“We're gonna have volunteers there that can help people check their bills, see if you’re already enrolled in the monthly discount program,” Wheelock said. “And if you're not, we'll have applications right there. We can help people fill them out, get them back to PSEG Long Island, as well as National Grid. And, you know, just again, assist people with reviewing their bills because it can be confusing.”

Wheelock said customers can check the first page of their PSEG Long Island or National Grid bill to see if they are already enrolled.

Debt accumulated between March 2020 and May 2022 is eligible for review. But organizer Monique Fitzgerald said access to public utilities should be a right and all debt accumulation should be canceled.

“It has a lot to do with the way our utility system is set up, so that the private companies of National Grid and PSEG can line the pockets of their shareholders and executives,” Fitzgerald said. “So while the executives are enjoying a quarter of a million dollars and upwards of income, we have people who are struggling just to keep their lights on.”

The workshop will be held at 5:30 p.m on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead, located at 1018 Northville Turnpike in Riverhead.

Molly is a reporter covering Fairfield County. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.