PSEG ratepayers received $6.4M for food, medicine spoiled in Isaias

Originally published in Newsday on November 17, 2020.

Long Island ratepayers have received nearly $6.4 million in unprecedented reimbursements from PSEG Long Island to pay for spoiled food and medicine in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias, LIPA said.

In all, 35,259 ratepayers applied for the reimbursements in a program that came amid political pressure on PSEG in the aftermath of the storm. More than 500,000 ratepayers were affected by Isaias, and more than 646,000 outages occurred over the eight-plus days of restoration amid summer heat.

The average reimbursement payment, according to LIPA, was $195.90

Of the 35,259 claims received, PSEG as of Nov. 9 authorized 32,603 payouts to customers, while around 1,200 were rejected, according to LIPA figures. Those rejected have not yet been notified, and the balance are still being reviewed.

PSEG Long Island spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin said the claims process "has been going well."

"The vast majority of claims filed have been paid out and some claims are still being processed," she said in an email. "Claim denials for those who did not meet the program parameters will be formally communicated in the coming weeks."

Under the program, residential customers could receive up to $250 for spoiled food and up to $300 for medicine, while commercial customers such as restaurants were eligible for up to $5,000. Lesser amounts were paid to those who experienced an outage-related loss but didn't have photos or receipts.

The reimbursements came from a fund that is typically used to pay PSEG an incentive bonus for meeting more than 25 performance targets during the year. There remains about $3.6 million in the fund.

LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone on Monday said he would oppose any effort by PSEG to claim any portion of the incentive, even if it hits those performance targets.

"I certainly do not believe they earned a bonus," he said, a day before LIPA's Isaias task force released a scathing report of PSEG missteps during the storm, including "mismanagement" of an outage computer system that had been failing in the weeks before the storm. Falcone has charged "absentee management in New Jersey" and a "lack of accountability to Long Island" as root causes of the storm failures, which are also under investigation by the state Department of Public Service.

Chauvin, the PSEG spokeswoman, in her response did not address whether PSEG might still seek incentive bonus pay for meeting performance targets.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who along with U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran pushed for the reimbursement fund, said officials want to know why the 1,200 ratepayers were denied claims. LIPA has asked for additional information from PSEG detailing the specific reasons.

Kaminsky said he'd fight any effort by PSEG to claim any part of the incentive bonus.

"After PSEG's pitiful performance during the storm and their refusal to take responsibility for it, and the fact the outage management system is still not working, the idea of them receiving an any bonus payment is ludicrous," Kaminsky said.

Reimbursements by the numbers

Total claims: 35,259

Total checks authorized: 32,603

Total funds authorized for claims: $6.387 million

Average payment: $195.90.

Total denied 1,200.

Figures as of Nov. 9.

SOURCE: LIPA