February 17, 2022
“This initiative provides immediate relief for Maine people from increased electricity rates caused by escalating costs of natural gas,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office.
The Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) unanimous approval of a one-time utility bill credit of $90 for low-income Maine households will help 90,000 low income Mainers.
“We recognize the importance of this assistance during a time when energy costs are increasing globally,” said Commission Chairman Philip L. Bartlett II. “We also have an open proceeding looking at revising our Low-income Assistance Program to provide longer term relief for utility customers most in need. For those still in need of assistance, we urge you to speak with your utility or visit the Commission website at http://www.Maine.gov/MPUC for a full list of assistance programs.”
The total $8 million proposal was developed by the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) and OPA in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services, Central Maine Power, Versant and MaineHousing. With today’s approval, the credits are expected to be delivered to approximately 90,000 Maine households served by CMP and Versant starting in March.
“I thank the PUC for its unanimous approval of this rate relief plan, which will deliver meaningful support to low-income Maine people who are disproportionately impacted by these costs,” said Governor Janet Mills. “While this is a welcome step forward, my Administration will continue to evaluate ways that we can provide relief to more people across the state as they grapple with these increased costs driven by Maine’s over reliance on fossil fuels, especially natural gas.”
The $90 bill credit offsets three months of the average household’s monthly utility bill increase this year. This increase stems from the increased standard offer electricity price that took effect in January, which was driven by a significant spike in global fossil fuel prices, especially natural gas.
“The rate relief approved unanimously by the PUC today represents a team effort by several state agencies to address rising energy costs on Maine people, without adding costs to ratepayers,” said Bill Harwood, the state’s Public Advocate. “I applaud the PUC for taking swift action in recognition of the critical importance of delivering financial support to Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Funding for the bill credit comes from additional Federal funds delivered to Maine for the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, through the American Rescue Plan Act. Use of these funds ensures no additional costs to ratepayers to support the credit.
The HEAP program is administered by MaineHousing. The MaineHousing Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve this rate relief proposal on Tuesday.
To be eligible for the credit, a household’s income must be at or below 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Utilities will identify households to receive the credit with the assistance of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.