Utility Assistance and Rights
For Central Hudson Customers
- General Payment Assistance
- Shut off Assistance
- Shuts off/Debt Rights
- Protecting Your Rights
1. General Payment Assistance
A. Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
HEAP is a federally funded program that helps people with low incomes pay for home heating.
- How do I sign up for HEAP?
To apply, visit https://otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/apply/ or fill out an application at the Department of Social Services office. If you have questions, call 1-800-342-3009.
B. Central Hudson’s Discount For HEAP Customers
If, through an account in your own name, you get your electricity and either electric or gas heating through Central Hudson, you can receive an automatic discount of either $17.50 per month (for electric heating) or $23.00 per month (for gas heating) for twelve months. This can total $210 (electric heating) or $276 (gas heating). Your application must instruct that your HEAP grant be credited directly to your own Central Hudson account number.
If you get electricity from another utility (like NYSEG), through an account in your own name, but you get either electric or gas heating through Central Hudson, you can receive an automatic discount of $17.50 per month for twelve months for a total of $210. Again, your application must instruct that your HEAP grant be credited directly to your own Central Hudson account number.
C. Central Hudson’s Powerful Opportunity Program (POP)
POP is a temporary payment assistance program designed to help eligible customers pay off their past due balance up to any amount and stay current with future monthly budget bills.
- How do I sign up for POP?
If Central Hudson provides your heat, you have signed up for HEAP, and you have a past due amount of at least $100, call (845) 452-2700. It you are outside the 845 area code, call 1-800-527-2714.
D. EmPower New York
EmPower New York is a program that provides free energy efficient appliances and home weatherization to low-income applicants. If you qualify for HEAP, you also qualify for Empower New York.
- How do I sign up for Empower New York?
To get an application, call 1(800) 263-0960 or visit http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/EmPower. To apply, email an application to: Acsempower.firstname.lastname@example.org, mail an application to EmPower New York, PO Box 2489, Syracuse, New York 13220-2489, or fax an application to (315) 463-7393.
2. Shut Off Assistance
A. Emergency HEAP
Emergency HEAP is another federally funded benefit you can receive on top of regular HEAP if your heat is shut off, scheduled to be shut off, or if you’re out or almost out of fuel.
- How do I sign up for Emergency HEAP?
Visit the Department of Social Services to fill out a regular HEAP application, but add that you need Emergency HEAP. If DSS isn’t open and it’s an emergency, call Community Action at 845-437-0050
B. Good Neighbor Fund (from the Salvation Army)
The Good Neighbor Fund has limited funds you can apply for after you have tried to get all other forms of assistance. It comes from Central Hudson, but is administered by the Salvation Army. It is often not available until after HEAP funds have run out for the year.
- How do I apply to the Good Neighbor Fund?
Contact your local Salvation Army office to see if funds are available. If you can, call before you show up in person
C. Dutchess Outreach
Dutchess Outreach has limited funds you can apply for after you have tried to get all other forms of assistance, including the Good Neighbor Fund.
- How do I apply to Dutchess Outreach?
If possible, call before you show up in person. Their number is 845-454-3792. Visit Dutchess Outreach at the Family Partnership Center on 29 North Hamilton, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 between 1-4pm on Monday, Thursday, and Friday or between 8:30am and 4:30pm on Wednesday.
D. Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities has limited funds you can apply for after you have tried to get all other forms of assistance.
- How do I apply to Catholic Charities?
If you can, call before you show up in person. Their number is 845-452-1400. Their office is 218 Church St, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601.
2. Shut Off/Debt Rights
Below is a summary of your legal rights as an energy utilities customer. These rights come from the Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA), a law passed in New York State in 1981. For a fuller summary of your rights, go to http://www.askpsc.com/askpsc/, scroll down the page, and click “Residential Consumer Protections”
How can I pay off my debt?
You have the right to work out a deferred payment agreement to pay off your debt over a period of time for as little as $10 a month. Central Hudson must negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that is affordable for you. However, Central Hudson may refuse a deferred payment agreement if it believes you have the ability to pay in full.
When are shut offs not allowed?
Written Notice and Waiting Period
Central Hudson must send a final termination notice before a shut-off. It must state the reasons for the intended shut-off, the earliest date on which a shutoff might occur, the address and phone number of the utility, and consumer rights under HEFPA.
- The notice must be sent 20 days or more after the payment was due.
- The utility must allow 15 days for you to pay or establish a deferred payment agreement.
- There are more protections for situations in which a landlord fails to pay.
Friday-Saturday or Holidays: Central Hudson can only do shut offs between 8AM and 4PM Monday-Thursday. They cannot do shut-offs on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, the day before a holiday, on a holiday, any day their office or the Public Service Commission (PSC) office is closed, or during a two-week period in the Christmas-New Year’s season.
Medical Emergencies: If someone living in the home has a medical condition that could be made worse by a shut off, a doctor can write a note to prevent a shut off for at least 30 days.
Life Support Equipment: If someone living in the home needs electricity to operate Life Support Equipment, they are not allowed to shut off your electricity.
If there is a pending complaint: If you have a pending complaint with the Public Service Commission (PSC) or are in the process of trying to work out an agreement with Central Hudson, a shut off cannot happen.
Special protections apply when health and safety may be threatened by lack of service.
They apply to all customers during the cold weather period between November 1 and April 15 and at all times to customers with medical emergencies or who are elderly, blind or disabled.
- Your power cannot be shut off if it would create a health and safety risk for someone in the home
- At least three days before the scheduled shut off, Central Hudson must attempt to contact you or another adult in your home by telephone during normal business hours. If unsuccessful, they must attempt to reach you by telephone during non-business hours (6 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays). If unsuccessful reaching you by telephone, your provider must attempt to contact you in person.
- On the day of service shut off, Central Hudson must attempt to contact, in person, you or an adult resident in your home.
4. Protecting Your Rights
What if Central Hudson is violating my rights or treating me unfairly?
File a complaint with the Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC is the agency that regulates and oversees Central Hudson and other utility providers in New York. You can file a complaint with the PSC if Central Hudson is treating you unfairly or to temporarily prevent a shut off.
How do I file a complaint with the Public Service Commission?
If your power is shutoff or a shutoff is scheduled, immediately call the PSC shutoff hotline at 1-800-342-3355
In all other situations, you must follow three steps:
First, complain to Central Hudson by calling (845) 452-2700 or, if outside the area code, call 800-527-2714. If this does not resolve the problem, then
Second, complain to the PSC by calling 1-800-342-3377 (make sure you ask for the case number assigned to your complaint), going online to http://www3.dps.ny.gov/ocs/itgate.nsf/webDPS_Complaint?OpenForm, faxing a complaint to 518-472-8502, or mailing a complaint to Public Service Commission, Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 3, Albany, NY 12223
Third, if the PSC does not rule in your favor, request a hearing by phone or by writing within 15 days of the PSC’s decision.
Sample complaint categories:
|What is the problem you are experiencing?*|
|What resolution are you seeking?*|
|What resolution did they offer to you?*|
The Best Way to Protect Your Rights is to Organize!
Knowing your rights and available assistance programs are key to keeping the lights and heat on. But these survival programs are only necessary because Central Hudson is a corporation run for profit, and not to meet people’s needs. The system is broken.
We will not fix our problems unless we organize and fight for a better system. When we work as individuals, Central Hudson is much stronger and will refuse to change. But when we work together, we are stronger and can force them to change. When we fight, we win!
We ask all members who get support from our organization to pay it forward by joining our fight to make decent housing and affordable household electricity and heat human rights. Come to our meetings, join our protests, help educate others. Build a movement for justice.