Albany, NY — Last night, Governor Cuomo signed S.1453-B/A.6225-A into law, extending New York’s statewide life-saving utility shut-off moratorium, which had expired on March 31. The law extends the statewide moratorium on utility shut-offs, including water, heat, electric, telephone, cable and broadband services until the conclusion of the COVID-19 state of emergency or until December 31, 2021, whichever comes first. For New Yorkers who suffer financial harm due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the law enshrines a further moratorium extension of 180 days.
Research from Food & Water Watch demonstrated the life-saving effect of water shut-off moratoria during the COVID-19 pandemic, and further studies have shown that the negative impacts of utility shut-offs disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color in New York. Environmental, legal aid, consumer protection and social justice organizations applauded Senator Kevin Parker and Assembly Member Diana Richardson for their leadership on the bill, and commended Cuomo for his signature.
Advocates lauded new strengthened provisions to the moratorium, including:
- Establishes a moratorium on water liens, which can lead to home foreclosure
- Gives state agencies authority to enforce the law against public water utilities
- Increases the frequency of public notification
- Provides new protections for tenants
“New York’s utility shut-off moratorium has proven to be a critical component of fighting the spread of COVID-19,” said Food & Water Watch Senior New York Organizer Eric Weltman. “While vaccination rates rise, many New Yorkers are still subject to the perils of the enduring pandemic, and all are in need of continual access to water and other essential services to remain healthy. We are proud to see the life-saving moratorium extended, and look ahead to securing the right to water and essential services for all New Yorkers, regardless of personal situation or state of emergency.”
“All New Yorkers need access to clean water, even as many continue to struggle economically due to the lasting impacts of the pandemic. The Governor and Legislature have taken an essential protective step by extending and strengthening the state’s ban on utility shut offs,” said Larry Levine, Director of Urban Water Infrastructure & Senior Attorney at NRDC. “The state’s most vulnerable are helped greatly by new protections against lien sales and foreclosures for overdue water bills, and the state can build on these protections by creating a permanent water affordability program that ensures safe water is always accessible to everyone, regardless of income.”
Liz Moran, Environmental Policy Director for NYPIRG, said, “Every New Yorker, regardless of where they live, race, or class, should have access to clean and safe water — this basic need has been strongly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. No one should fear that their water will be shut off at any time, but especially during a time when hand-washing and practicing proper hygiene is critical to prevent the spread of a deadly illness. NYPIRG thanks the Governor and the Legislature for taking this crucial action to protect public health.”
“Access to water during Year One of the COVID-19 pandemic was vital to stopping the spread and limiting the loss of human life,” said Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “PULP thanks the Governor, Senator Parker and Assembly Member Richardson for extending the moratorium for Year Two of the pandemic and making sure that vulnerable New Yorkers have water, telecommunications and energy so they can attend school from home, work from home and get medical care from the safe shelter of their homes. Hand washing fought the pandemic, but water is a human necessity at all times.”
“The Western New York Law Center congratulates the Legislature and Governor for enacting crucial legislation extending and expanding protections to New Yorkers facing water shut offs and debt attributable to the economic deprivations caused by COVID. Untold thousands of New Yorkers across the State will benefit from this law. In the past, Buffalo’s most vulnerable residents have suffered greatly from water shut offs and onerous water debt. The consumer protections in this new law will relieve them of a burden and worry in the immediate future. We look forward to further, long-term remedial legislation dealing with water affordability and rearrange forgiveness,” said Joe Kelemen, executive director of the Western New York Law Center.
Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water at Environmental Advocates NY, said “This pandemic has brought to light a water affordability crisis not only in New York, but across the country. We are grateful that state lawmakers have both extended and strengthened New York’s moratorium, establishing some of the strongest consumer protections in the country. We are glad that New Yorkers will continue to be protected from harmful shut-offs if they cannot currently afford their utility bills, and we look forward to continuing working to ensure that every New Yorker has affordable drinking water.”
“Governor Cuomo and the Legislature have taken monumental steps to ensure the health and safety of New Yorkers by extending the statewide moratorium on utility shut-offs,” said Kevin M. Quinn, Esq., Supervising Attorney of the Center for Elder Law & Justice in Buffalo, N.Y. “While more and more New Yorkers are being vaccinated, we must remain vigilant in taking necessary precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. An extension of the moratorium will be instrumental in accomplishing this vital goal. We are thankful for the moratorium extension and we look forward to continued efforts to maintain water affordability for all New Yorkers going forward.”
“Freshwater Future applauds Senator Parker, Assembly Member Richardson and Governor Cuomo for their leadership in ensuring all New Yorkers have access to tap water in their homes to fight this pandemic,” said Kristy Meyer, Associate Director at Freshwater Future. “Now we must work together to ensure all New Yorkers have access to safe, clean and affordable water even after the moratorium has expired.”