In June 2015, the Public Service Commission created a proposal to modify low-income energy assistance programs—without soliciting input from low-income people. Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson convened a committee within the New York State Energy Democracy Alliance to respond. In August 2015, we mobilized to Albany and won statewide public hearings so low-income consumers could make their voices heard. Over the rest of 2015, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson organized Energy Democracy Alliance groups, and our own members, to turn out to these hearings and demand expanded funding and eligibility for assistance programs.
As a result of these actions the Public Service Commission modified its proposal, which was released last Thursday. Funding has been expanded by $69 million, and eligibility has been expanded by 550,000 households. In total, funding will be $248 million, and 1.65 million households will be eligible. A joint interagency task force, designed to further increase enrollment to 2.3 million total households, has been formed. This is the first statewide utility assistance program in New York, and it was won despite significant opposition from powerful corporations.
At the meeting last Thursday announcing the decision, staff from the Consumer Affairs offices described the “enormous amount of input” from low-income people that led them to rewrite the initial proposal. As our organizer Spencer Resnick said in the Daily Freeman, “This is a victory for the people who took time out of their lives to fight for a program that they need.” The affordability crisis has not been solved, but this program’s expansion is an incredible victory that sets up low-income people for further advances.
PS — This is what happens when we make our voices heard! So if you haven’t yet, click hereto use our template to submit a comment to the Public Service Commission in support of the investigation of Central Hudson being fair and thorough. As a reminder, we got the Commission to open an investigation based on possible racial discrimination, illegal shut-offs, and other consumer violations.