Hurricane Sandy victims on Long Island who spent weeks in the dark after the storm knocked out their power are livid after receiving electricity bills charging them for a normal rate of usage during that time.
The Long Island Power Authority sent out the bills, basing customers' estimated usage rates on those from the same period last year, the New York Post reported.
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"I can't get LIPA to acknowledge my existence on Earth to talk to me about anything," outraged customer Jonathan Saporta told the Post. Saporta was hit with a double whammy by LIPA: First, he received a $281 bill for electricity usage at his Great Neck, N.Y., home, even though he was without power for 14 days during the billing period. Then the Long Beach restaurant he owns, Jake's Wayback Burger, was charged $1,700 -- even though it hasn't reopened since Sandy hit.
"I guess they [LIPA] had power, so they could print my bills," Saporta said. "Nice, right?"
LIPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler told CNN that the bills are meant only as estimates and they will be adjusted in the next billing cycle to reflect usage more accurately.
"It's not the first time bills have been estimated. They were estimated last year after [Hurricane] Irene," Flagler said. "This is pretty much what I believe all utilities do in the event of natural disasters and storms."
But that's no consolation to Saporta.
"At this point, with a major disaster, with so many people losing so much of their livelihood, they can't go around to do estimated billing and hold all that money," he said. "Until I get some sort of clarification on what is owed and what is going to be done, I am going to continue ignoring them."
Flagler said that LIPA customers can either do their own digital readings and report their findings to customer service, or they can pay what they think is fair now and pay off the remainder of the balance when the adjusted bills are sent out.
This is just the latest post-Sandy flap that LIPA has found itself embroiled in. After a deluge of its customers complained of poor communication by the utility following the storm, LIPA COO Michael Hervey resigned. Since then, its vice president of customer service, Bruce Germano, also has said that he will leave the company.
And the electricity bills are yet another blow to Sandy victims, as many areas affected by the storm experienced a spate of Thanksgiving Day burglaries. The Post reported that one couple whose home was damaged in the storm and looted on Thanksgiving had a $25,000 coin collection stolen.
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