With high heating costs of concern, lawmakers pass additional energy assistance

  • On Thursday, Governor Chris Sununu signed HB 2023 an act making appropriations to the Department of Energy for a state emergency fuel assistance program and a supplemental electric benefit. —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 9/15/2022 4:56:44 PM

With looming concern about home heating costs this winter, state lawmakers passed additional funding Thursday to alleviate costs for middle-class residents.

A new group of earners – those who make between 60% and 75% of the state median income level – are eligible to apply for aid this winter. While aid has been targeted to low-income earners in the past, the anticipated high heating and electric costs spurred legislators to focus on helping a larger pool of residents this year. 

The new assistance comes in the form of a one-time $450 credit for fuel assistance and $200 in electric assistance.

“We believe these surplus funds will alleviate some of the financial pressure for N.H. families who would otherwise not qualify for existing assistance programs,” said House Speaker Sherman Packard, a Londonderry Republican.

This money comes from a $35 million spending package that allocates $25 million for emergency fuel and electric assistance and $10 million as aid for electric bills.

An additional $7 million was also approved to bolster the established low-income energy assistance program that supports earners below 60% of the state's median income.

The bill passed after debates over a similar proposal by Governor Chris Sununu, which called for $60 million to give all residents $100 towards electricity bills. Instead, lawmakers in the House presented their own energy assistance roadmap, which also passed the Senate.

“New Hampshire just delivered the largest energy relief package this state has ever seen, helping families in need this winter – using our state surplus funds,” Sununu said in a statement. “While this final legislation looks a little different from what we originally proposed, this is a big win.”

The bill targets people just above the threshold of the federal program, who are still expected to be in need of assistance with an anticipated 50% increase in electric rates.

“Granite State families cannot afford the 50% increase that will hit them this fall, and this bill provides temporary relief for lower-income households that are ineligible for existing programs,” said House Democratic Leader David Cote, a Nashua Democrat.

Already, residents earning below 60% of the state median income are eligible for fuel assistance programs through federal contracting.

Leah Richards, who oversees the fuel assistance program through the Community Action Program for Belknap and Merrimack County, has seen more inquiries for the aid.

“There is more panic from people and households regarding how they will be able to balance the increased costs of everything, including electric and how to heat their home,” she said. “People are very worried.”

The Executive Council also approved a one-time $405 credit to offset electricity costs for low-income earners in July.

In order to receive the credit, applicants must apply for the aid. This was a major difference between Sununu’s proposal, which would have awarded $100 credits regardless of income or application.

More information on how to apply can be found at the state Department of Energy website.


MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Michaela Towfighi is a Report for America corps member covering the Two New Hampshires for the Monitor. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in public policy and journalism and media studies in 2022. At Duke she covered education, COVID-19, the 2020 election and helped edit stories about the Durham County Courthouse for The 9th Street Journal and the triangle area's alt-weekly Indy Week. Her story about a family grappling with a delayed trial for a fatal car accident in Concord won first place in Duke’s Melcher Family Award for Excellence in Journalism. Towfighi is an American expat who calls London, England, home despite being born in Boston.



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