Bill Memo: Keep Water On

Substantial benefit rating

Summary

This bill prohibits utility shut-offs during the COVID-19 state of emergency and provides protections against utility termination for a period after the state of emergency ends.

Explanation

All New Yorkers deserve clean, running water in their homes. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, access to running water is also essential to help fight the spread of the virus. This bill prohibits utility shut-offs during the COVID-19 state of emergency. For New Yorkers who suffer financial harm due to the COVID-19 crisis, the bills also prohibits shut-offs for 180 days after the end of the state of emergency, prohibits late fees and penalties, and guarantees access to extended or deferred repayment plans.

Water shut-offs are a practice that many utilities employ when households are unable to afford their water bills. For example, from 2015 through March 2019, the City of Buffalo terminated water in over 17,000 instances. In 2016, Suffolk County Water Authority disconnected water service for one percent of its customers, affecting 9,553 people. The consequences of these shut-offs on human health and community well-being are devastating.

This legislation is necessary to ensure that millions of New Yorkers have access to water during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery period. However, the bill could be strengthened with the following modifications:

  • Water utilities must be required to fully restore water to all customers whose water has been cut off, even before the pandemic, and who are still without water.
  • Water shut-offs should not be used as a tool for nonpayment throughout the crisis and recovery period.
  • Water utilities must be prohibited from charging reconnection fees, in addition to late fees and penalties, during the crisis and recovery period.
  • Water utilities must be required to publicly report vital information, including the number of households currently disconnected and reconnections completed.

Environmental Advocates NY Bill Rating: Substantial Benefit

Memo #: 33