ALBANY. NY (WIVT/WBGH) – The number of New York residents behind on utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic soared according to a report released by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

One in eight state residents face overdue utility bills, with 60% of those residents living in New York City or Long Island.

According to the report, more than 1.2 million customers owed $1.8 billion to their utility companies in the first quarter of 2022. Between March 2020 and March 2022, the total amount owed by customers grew by an increase of close to $1 billion.

DiNapoli released a statement on the large increase.

“The pandemic’s effects continue to be felt in multiple aspects of life, including the elevated number of New Yorkers who continue to have trouble paying their utility bills,” DiNapoli said. “Failure to pay these bills may result in service shutoffs, which increases economic stress on families and can damage local economies by reducing household spending, leading to job losses. State lawmakers and the Public Service Commission have acted to provide meaningful relief to low-income customers through the Utility Arrears Relief Program and the Phase 1 Arrears Reduction Program, and should continue to consider mechanisms to help utility customers that cannot pay their bills.”

You can view the full report here.