NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio: “74,000 Free Air Conditioners for the elderly and most vulnerable”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio: “74,000 Free Air Conditioners for the elderly and most vulnerable”

Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a media availability. City Hall. Friday, May 15, 2020. Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

With the aim of protecting New York City’s most vulnerable during the upcoming hot months, Mayor de Blasio stated that 74,000 free air conditioners would be provided to low-income seniors and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents. The announcement came today during his daily COVID-19 Response Press Conference.

Eligible individuals in need of air conditioners will be contacted with installations to begin next week.

As per a press release issued by the Mayor’s Office:

The City is also petitioning the Public Service Commission (PSC) for $72 million to help pay the utility bills for 450,000 vulnerable New Yorkers so they can afford to run their ACs and keep cool. The program would ensure that vulnerable New Yorkers can afford to use their air conditioners and protect families from preventable heat-related illness and death, including relief for COVID-19-discharged patients at greatest risk and NYCHA residents paying their own energy bills. As more families experience economic insecurity due to COVID-19, they may not be able to prioritize an air conditioner purchase or the corresponding utility bills, thereby increasing the risk of heat illness and death and compounding inequitable impacts of COVID-19.

Through the CARES Act, the Federal Government also allocated an additional $900 million in funding for the nationwide Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). The City is advocating for the State to allocate the use of its share in winter heating subsidy funds from the federal CARES Act for summer utility bill relief.

Mayor de Blasio:

“… in every crisis we work to save everyone, protect everyone, protect the health, protect their safety, but we know some people bear the brunt in the heat. It is those who have the least ability to provide options for themselves who are the most vulnerable. Who is that? Many times that’s our seniors, many times that’s lower-income New Yorkers who don’t have air conditioning.

It’s people who can’t leave their home even if they wanted to because of disability or other challenges. It’s folks who have chronic health conditions, certainly mirrors a lot of what we’re seeing in terms of the impact of the coronavirus, but the heat has elements that allow us to hone in on those who need help the most and literally know person by person, department by department, who are some of the people that need the most help, and that’s guiding us in our strategy to proactively get help to people and protect them against any heat wave that might be ahead.

First, we’re going to be providing more and more a growing initiative to provide free air conditioners to low-income seniors who need them. Again, remember, senior citizens often with the fewest options, sometimes limited mobility, a lot of times lower income. These are the folks who are in the most dangerous situation. Many have major preexisting health conditions. Knowing that low-income seniors are the most vulnerable, we’re going to start initiative right away to get them air conditioners. We’re going to have 74,000 air conditioners in the first wave of this initiative, 22,000 of which will go to residents of public housing.

We’re going to identify the individuals need the most working with our colleagues at NYCHA public housing, at the Department for the Aging, our housing department, HPD and the Human resources administration, so we’ll identify those who need help the most, we’ll reach out to them, confirm that an air conditioner makes sense for them, and then we’ll begin installations. Those installations will start next week.

This is a $55 million investment and $20 million of it will come from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority – NYSERDA. And we are very, very appreciative to everyone at NYSERDA, everyone at the State government for their participation in this effort. It’s absolutely going to protect our seniors and help save lives no matter what mother nature throws at us. The remainder of the cost is – it’s an area of a public investment that is eligible for federal reimbursement. We want to make sure that we get those federal grants to offset the cost.”