BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland Public Service Commission announced $83 million in state funding to help assist Maryland residents with past due utility bills.

“Today’s disbursement of millions of dollars in aid will help tens of thousands of needy Maryland families get out from under a mountain of utility-related debt,” said Jason M. Stanek, Chairman of the Public Service Commission. “Using the RELIEF Act funding to pay down or eliminate past due balances will go a long way towards ensuring that no Marylander loses essential utility services as we emerge from this pandemic.”

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The commission allocated the $83 million in state funding to utilities by the RELIEF Act passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year. The goal of the funds is to help reduce or eliminate customer bills, particularly those incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Maryland utilities reported thousands of customers have fallen behind on their gas and electric bills since Governor Hogan declared the State of Emergency in March of 2020. The additional funding will help relieve a portion of the $276 million owed by customers.

The funding will only be available for customer accounts that have accumulated a balance before June 30.

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The RELIEF Act directed that the grants be applied in the following order:

  • Category 1: Customers who have received energy assistance from the state’s Office of Home Energy Programs within the last four years. (OHEP is a division of the Maryland Department of Human Services)
  • Category 2: Customers who have special medical needs certificates on file with their utility,
  • Category 3: Customers with the oldest arrearages.

The $83 million in assistance is expected to eliminate debt for customers in categories 1 and 2 for all utilities. For category 3, each utility will be distributed based on the statewide share of total arrearages and will determine how much will be credited to a customer’s account. Funds will appear as bill credits in the upcoming months.

The utilities must report to the Commission how the RELIEF Act funding was distributed by October 1.  The Commission imposed a moratorium until June 30 prohibiting utilities from terminating service only to customers in categories 1 and 2 due to non-payment back in February.

This story was originally published on June 15, 2021. 

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CBS Baltimore Staff