$447 Million for Emergency Winter Energy Relief Plan Voted On In Maine Senate

The Maine Writer

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Maine Governor Janet Mills unveiled a proposal Tuesday to help Maine residents with the high costs of heating their homes and it will include $450 checks to be sent to an estimated 880,000 Mainers.

Mill's plan is called the Emergency Winter Energy Relief Plan, and the plan is a short-term measure that is geared towards helping low-income and middle-class Mainers stay warm, safe, and secure this winter with near-record high energy prices.

Mills said," Inflation and high energy prices are stretching the wallets of Maine people, in some cases forcing them to face the impossible choice of heating their homes, putting food on the table, or paying for other necessities. With this plan, we hope to ease the burden on Maine people by putting money back into their pockets so they can better afford these costs and by ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens are able to stay warm this winter. This approach builds on our nation-leading inflation relief measure, incorporates Republican feedback, and represents the most direct way to get help to Maine people as we work to bring down energy costs in the long-term. I ask the Legislature to pass this plan with the 2/3 support long term needed to enact it as an emergency measure so that we can get this relief into the hands of Maine people without delay.ā€

The first regular session of the 131st Maine Legislature started today, December 7, 2022, and there needs to be 2/3 support for the plan to pass. If that happens, the checks will be sent out starting in the middle of January 2023.

Details of the plan include $450 checks for each Maine household meeting the following guidelines based on 2021 tax filings:

  • for a single filer earning less than $100,000 if filing single or if married and filing separately
  • for a filer with a gross income of $150,000 or less if filing as head of household
  • gross income of less than $200,000 for couples filing jointly
  • This works out to $900 for a household

The plan also includes $40 million to supplement the Home Energy Assistance Program or HEAP. $10 million to Maine Community Action Partnerships to help them deliver emergency fuel assistance and $21 million for short-term housing support, which will support emergency housing and emergency shelters to prevent people from experiencing homelessness this winter. The Emergency Rental Assistance Act funding will expire at the end of December. Mufalo Chitam, executive director of the Maine Immigrants Rights Coalition, says she would like the state to provide stop-gap funding with the Emergency Rental Assistance funding expiring because there will be asylum seekers without assistance for housing and they will end up homeless.

Mills also plans to use executive action to distribute more heating aid to low-income older Mainers, and during the week of December 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 aged 65 or older to help them pay for home heating costs.

The average price for heating oil in Maine remains above $5 per gallon, along with electricity price increases of more than $500 a year, are making this winter more expensive than last year.

Whether the governor's plan will pass remains to be seen, as there are calls by some legislative members to have a public hearing on the plan along with more legislative vetting of the process.

The Maine Senate Wednesday, December 7, 2022, voted 21-8 in favor of the bill, but since it didn't clear the 2/3 majority needed, the measure failed to pass. While the bill didn't immediately pass it is not dead and after a bipartisan vote, the bill will go through the standard process and go to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee for a public hearing.

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