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March 14, 2001
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Chrys Wilson, Manager
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Program Assists Low-Income Electric Customers With Paying Their Electric Bills

Baltimore - The Electric Universal Service program may be just the helping hand needed by many electric customers who are struggling to pay their bills. The program is administered by the Department of Human Resources, Office of Home Energy Programs and is designed to assist low-income electric customers with paying their electric bills, cover past and current electric bills and includes monies for weatherization. This program is particularly important now as the emergency moratorium for low-income residential electric customers terminates by law on March 31, 2001.

Catherine I. Riley, Chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission, is urging anyone who is eligible to apply for assistance. "Even if you receive help from the Maryland Energy Assistance Program or other financial aid, you should also apply for the Electric Universal Service Program as soon as possible," she said. "Eligible customers may receive help from more than one program and only one application is needed."

Sources of assistance available to utility customers include: the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), the Utility Service Protection Program (USPP), and the Electric Universal Service Program (EUSP).

The Maryland Energy Assistance Program is a federally funded grant program which assists customers with their winter heating charges. The grant is available once a year and can be applied either directly as a bill payment or as a monthly reduction to a customer's Budget Billing payments under the Universal Service Protection Program. (Phone: 1-800-352-1446)

The Universal Service Protection Program (USPP) provides additional protections against service terminations during the heating season. This program is available to MEAP grant recipients and you apply for it at the same time you apply for a MEAP grant.

The Electric Universal Service Program (EUSP) is funded by a small portion of all electric customers' bills, similar to the other energy assistance programs. Utility rates are frozen, thus the costs of this program does not result in an increase in utility rates for any ratepayers. The EUSP provides for both Arrearage Retirement and Bill Assistance.

The Arrearage Retirement benefit will pay outstanding electric charges billed prior to July 1, 2000. Anyone meeting certain requirements may be eligible for assistance in paying past due electric bills, whether one has active electric service now or wants to start service. However, this is a one time only grant per utility customer.

The Bill Assistance benefit provides help to pay current and future electric bills. If a customer is eligible, assistance will be sent directly to the electric company to help pay ongoing bills. The customer is required to participate in a budget billing payment plan to receive this benefit. The total benefit will be deducted from an estimate of the customer's total annual bills and the balance is divided into 12 even monthly payments. This benefit is available once a year.

Anyone whose income is at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines may be eligible for the Electric Universal Service Program. Customers who live in subsidized housing where heat is included in the rent may also be eligible for help.

Income Eligibility Standards
Size of
Income Limit
Income Limit
1  $ 1,044 $ 12,525
2 1,406 16,875
3 1,769 21,225
4 2,131 25,525
5 2,494  29,925
6 2,856 34,275

Each Additional
person add

$ 363 $ 4,350

To find out more about the program or to get an application, call toll-free 1-800-352-1446 (TTY for the hearing impaired: 1-800-925-4434), or visit the web site at www.dhr.state.md.us/meap. Applications are also available at local energy assistance offices.

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