Pennsylvania is making it easier for people with lower incomes to pay their energy bills.
After reviewing current energy thresholds for nearly two years, the Pennsylvania Utility Commission narrowly voted to lower the financial burden for 2 million Pennsylvanians enrolled in Customer Assistance Programs throughout the state.
Customer Assistance Programs, or CAP, provide monthly and long-term bill payment plans so people with limited financial means can maintain their utility service.
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The new thresholds will be set at 6% of a CAP customer's total income for people using natural gas heating. Customers using electric non-heating will see a new cap of 4% of their income.
People making 51% to 150% of the federal poverty income guideline would pay up to 10% on energy bills, while those making even less would pay only 6%, according to the PUC.
The changes will go into effect by Jan. 1, 2021, according to the commission.
Previous caps, determined in 1992, were set at 17% of a customer's total income. Neighboring New York and New Jersey, however, set their energy burden thresholds at 6% years ago.
In a statement, the PUC said the new guidelines were the result of a "two-year holistic review of CAP and a thorough examination of energy burdens – underscoring the extremely high costs facing the poorest households in the state, even with existing assistance programs."
According to its findings, some of the lowest income Pennsylvanians were paying as much as 20% of their incomes on utilities alone. By contrast, non-CAP customers had an average combined energy burden of 4%.
“Energy services, whether electric or gas, are essential for health, safety, a livable home, child development and maintaining vibrant communities throughout Pennsylvania," PUC Commissioner Andrew G. Place said in a statement. "Energy affordability is an unsustainable burden for many thousands of Pennsylvanians and today’s action meaningfully contributes to addressing this impediment while balancing the costs of this fundamental support."
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