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Power shut-offs looming for some late-paying PSEG customers

PSEG Long Island has begun sending letters to tens of thousands of customers warning them their power could be turned off for nonpayment in as soon as one week as the utility returns to pre-pandemic rules aimed at getting late customers to pay up.

Shut-offs for nonpayment will begin July 12, PSEG said, with 46,000 late-paying customers receiving letters alerting them of a possible shut-off starting last week.

Around 120,000 PSEG residential customers owe more than $160 million in past-due bills as of the end of May, according to state filings, but most can avoid a shut-off by applying for assistance programs or by starting a deferred payment plan. At the end of May, 37,863 residential customers were on deferred payment plans, PSEG reported, about a third of its arrears accounts.

Dozens of PSEG workers will visit customers before a formal shut-off takes place, said Kim Soreil, PSEG’s manager of customer operations, on Tuesday. The plan, she said, is to get as many of the late-paying customers as possible on deferred payment plans or into an assistance program to help prevent shut-offs.

Late-paying PSEG residential customers*

Total number of customers with bills more than 60-days late: 120,051

Amount owed: $160.3 million

Letters sent threatening shut-offs: 46,000

Deferred payment plans in place: 37,863

Past-due balances forgiven: 14,000

*(as of May 31) 

Source: NYS Department of Public Service filings

Setting up a payment plan, sometimes to pay as little as $10 a month, also suspends late-payment charges, she added. The utility will often ask for a down-payment as part of the deferred plan, she said.

Low- and moderate-income customers who qualify for financial assistance programs won’t be shut off until Sept. 1, PSEG said, and some may avoid the process entirely if they qualify for a recently enacted state arrears-forgiveness programs. On Long Island those programs will absolve more than 14,000 from having to pay past due bills accumulated from March 2020 through May 2022, Newsday reported last month.

Arrears-forgiveness programs apply to customers who received PSEG’s Household Assistance Program or an eligible financial assistance program during that two-year period. Soreil noted that customers can still apply for the HAP and forgiveness program through the end of the year. Customers can call PSEG at 800-490-0025 to see if they are eligible.

PSEG, like other state utilities, had stopped the process of threatening shut-offs during the state of emergency declared by the state in March 2020 tied to COVID-19 financial hardships. For the past half year the company has been visiting late-paying customers to tell them bills would soon come due and shut-offs would resume in the summer. PSEG, which operates the electric grid under contract to LIPA, restarted shut-offs later than many other state utilities, Soreil said.

Commercial customers have not been shielded from the shut-offs since the end of 2021. As of the end of May, 10,918 commercial accounts owed more than $29 million in past-due electric bills, state data show. About 6,664 commercial customers received final shut-off notices as of the end of May, and 245 were shut off.

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