BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In response to a nationwide rise in heating costs, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that recipients of the state’s utility and electric assistance program will be provided enhanced benefits.

“The relief we are announcing today will help our most vulnerable residents keep up with higher energy costs and stay warm throughout the winter months,” Hogan said. “This is all part of our commitment to devote some of our record budget surplus to helping Marylanders in need.”

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The state also announced  $29 million weatherization assistance program over two years to lower energy consumption and home maintenance costs, $30 million in supplemental energy bill assistance and $5 million to assist people with completing applications and submitting documentation, according to a press release from Hogan’s office.

Supplemental Energy Bill Assistance will also be issued over a six-month period as well as a $5 million energy assistance outreach assisting vulnerable populations

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The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) plan to administer the assistance, the release stated.

Recipients of the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) will see their minimum benefit increase by 66%, the governor’s office said. Marylanders enrolled in the Electric Universal Assistance Program (EUSP) will see their minimum double from $150 to $300.

“Every year, more than 100,000 Maryland households feel squeezed by high energy costs benefit from our energy assistance programs,” said Lourdes R. Padilla, secretary of Maryland’s Department of Human Services. “The actions taken by Governor Hogan provide help for struggling Marylanders dealing with higher heating and energy bills.”

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Nearly half of U.S. households heated primarily with natural gas are expected to spend 30% more than last winter on average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. On average the EIA reported fuel prices across the U.S. are expected to rise higher than in previous years.

CBS Baltimore Staff