Debts owed on past due energy and heating bills in New York will be forgiven under a plan enacted Thursday by state officials. 

The $672 million assistance program is considered the largest such action in state history, and will affect an estimated 478,000 residential customers and 56,000 small businesses. 

"Every New Yorker deserves affordable energy, yet too many New Yorkers are at risk of having their lights turned off due to financial problems caused by the pandemic," Gov. Kathy Hochul said. "Earlier this month, I laid out extensive proposals to make energy more affordable in my State of the State address, and with this historic electric and gas utility relief we're achieving another major milestone to help New Yorkers stay warm during the cold winter months." 

The debt forgiveness plan allows for one-time credits for residential non-low-income customers as well as small commercial customers for the period through May 1, 2022. A similar program was put in place last summer for low-income utility customers. 

The money received final sign off on Thursday by regulators at the Public Service Commission. 

"To address this major problem, the PSC has approved measures to strengthen and improve utility energy affordability programs to reduce consumer energy burden and address low-income customer needs," Chairman Rory Christian said. 

Officials have backed the debt forgiveness efforts to help customers in arrears due to the financial upheaval created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, Hochul announced $567 million for low-income electric and gas utility customers to pay off their past due bills. 

The Hochul administration is also backing a $200 million plan for to help offset electric bills for more than 800,000 New Yorkers who earn less than $75,000, but are not eligible for the current utility discount program.