The plan proposes to send $450 checks to Maine residents, top up home heating assistance and emergency fuel programs, and fund short-term emergency housing to avert homelessness. during the winter months.
Governor Janet Mills today unveiled the Emergency Winter Energy Relief Plan, a set of short-term measures to ensure that low-income and middle-class individuals and families in Maine can stay warm, safe and secure this winter amid near-record energy prices.
“Inflation and high energy prices are stretching Maineans’ wallets, in some cases forcing them to face the impossible choice of heating their homes, putting food on the table, or paying other necessities”, said Governor Janet Mills. “With this plan, we hope to ease the burden on the people of Maine by putting money back in their pockets so they can better meet these costs and ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens can stay warm this winter. This approach builds on our nation-leading inflation-fighting measure, incorporates feedback from Republicans, and represents the most direct way to help Maine residents as we work to reduce energy costs in long term. I ask the Legislature to pass this plan with the 2/3 support needed to enact it as an emergency measure so that we can get this relief into the hands of the people of Maine without delay.
The governor’s office has been negotiating with Republicans and Democratic leaders in the Legislative Assembly over the past several weeks. At the request of legislative Republicans, the governor and Democrats raised the income threshold for the winter energy assistance payment. The Governor is urging the Legislative Assembly to pass the plan on Dec. 7, 2022 – the date the first regular session of the 131st Maine Legislative Assembly is called – with the 2/3 support needed to enact it as a bill of law. emergency. If achieved, the Mills administration estimates the $450 winter energy aid payment will be distributed beginning in mid-January 2023. The plan takes the form of a Governor-sponsored emergency bill by Senate Speaker Troy Jackson.
Specifically, the Winter Emergency Energy Plan includes:
- Winter Energy Assistance Payment $450 to approximately 880,000 eligible Maine people, representing $900 in assistance for the average Maine family. Based on previously filed 2021 tax returns, eligible Maine individuals will have a Federal Adjusted Gross Income (FAGI) of less than: $100,000 if single or married and filed separately; $150,000 if filing as head of household; or $200,000 for couples filing jointly.
- Home Energy Assistance Program Supplement (HEAP): $40 million to complete the Home Energy Assistance Program to help HEAP recipients receive a financial benefit equal to last year.
- emergency fuel: $10 million to Maine Community Action Partnerships to help provide emergency fuel assistance to prevent individuals and families from running out of heating fuel and experiencing a heating crisis.
- Short-term housing assistance: $21 million to bolster the Emergency Housing Assistance Fund created by Governor Mills and the Legislature earlier this year that supports emergency housing and emergency shelters to keep people from becoming homeless shelter this winter.
The plan also restores in state law a process by which the Department of Environmental Protection can waive sulfur limitations in fuels if necessary to protect public health, safety or welfare.
Read a more detailed overview of the Winter Emergency Energy Assistance Program (PDF).
The governor is also taking executive action to distribute additional heating assistance to low-income seniors in Maine. During the week of Dec. 12, the Department of Health and Human Services will provide one-time payments of $500 to approximately 13,000 households that include low-income Maine people age 65 or older to help pay for home heating costs.
“Thanks to the strong fiscal management of the Governor and Legislature, the State of Maine has an additional surplus that we will use again to support the people of Maine in difficult times. The Department of Administrative and Financial Services, specifically our Maine Tax Services team, stands ready to immediately implement the Governor and Legislature’s bipartisan energy relief plan,” said Kirsten Figueroa, Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS). “If passed as an emergency measure, we will begin distributing energy relief payments in mid-January.”
“Maine is significantly vulnerable to the impacts of volatile global fossil fuel markets, which are forcing Maineans to face unprecedented energy costs this winter,” said Dan Burgess, director of the governor’s office of energy. “This relief plan will help Maine residents and families stay warm this winter. Our office remains engaged with local, state, regional and national partners to continue to find ways to secure energy supplies this winter and on strategies to help increase Maine’s energy independence.
“We are grateful for the support of Governor Mills,” said MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan. “This emergency funding will help our neighbours, families and friends stay warm during a time when they are under exceptional economic pressures due to accelerating energy costs across the board. Maine, like other New England states, is particularly susceptible to rising oil costs, with many of our homes using it as our primary heating fuel. As we continue to move the people of Maine to more renewable, stable and accessible forms of heating energy, we still need to keep our homes warm this winter and this support package for Maine people will do just that. Funding to help those at risk of homelessness is critical to this comprehensive relief program and will help hundreds of our most vulnerable fellow Maine residents as we head into the coldest part of winter.
The proposal builds on – and complements – the nation’s largest $850 inflation relief checks delivered by Governor Mills and the Legislative Assembly earlier this year. The plan includes additional funding of $4.4 million to complete check distribution. In total, the program will send checks for $850 to 880,000 Maine residents, surpassing the original estimate of 858,000 people.
The relief plan comes as the average price of heating oil in Maine remains above $5 a gallon, which means consumers will now have to pay an average of $525 more to fill their tank than they did a year ago. . Additionally, with increases in electricity prices, Maine residents are expected to pay, on average, more than $500 more in electricity costs per year than in a typical year.
Rising energy prices are driven by volatility in global energy markets following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and are exacerbated by Maine’s overreliance on fossil fuels. Nearly 60% of Maine homes are fuel oil dependent, compared to only 4% nationally, making Maine the most fuel oil dependent state in the nation. Meanwhile, the New England power grid, which powers the majority of Maine, is also overly dependent on natural gas to generate electricity. This makes Maine significantly vulnerable to price increases driven by global energy market volatility.
This emergency winter energy relief plan also builds on actions taken by the Mills administration and the legislature to reduce costs for Maine residents and businesses struggling with rising prices. These actions include:
Resources to help Maine residents and families take steps to save money, improve their home’s energy efficiency, and find heating assistance if needed can be found at the updated Winter Heating Guide. by the Governor’s Office of Energy.
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