ANNAPOLIS, MD—Governor Larry Hogan on Wednesday announced that more than $154 million is now available in energy assistance funds to help cover heating, electric, and gas utility bills, representing an approximately 40% increase from last year. More than $110 million was distributed in Fiscal Year 2020.
“Too many Marylanders have faced undue financial hardships during this unprecedented crisis, including the inability to pay their utility bills,” said Governor Hogan. “We will continue to maximize our resources to help as many Marylanders as possible.”
The Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), Electric Universal Service Program (EUSP), and Electric and Gas Retirement Assistance Programs are allocated through the Maryland Department of Human Services’ Office of Home Energy Programs, which helps low-income households keep energy costs affordable and prevents loss of home energy service.
Maryland Energy Assistance Program
The MEAP provides financial assistance with home heating bills, natural gas arrearage assistance, crisis assistance, and furnace repair or replacement. Payments are made to the fuel supplier and utility company on the customer’s behalf. MEAP is funded by the federal block grant for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. During Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021, block grant funding is being supplemented by federal CARES Act funds allocated in anticipation of economic hardship related to COVID-19.
Applications can be submitted any time during the year, but Marylanders can only receive benefits once each year and must reapply each fiscal year.
Electric Universal Service Program
The EUSP provides bill payment assistance and arrearage assistance for electric customers. Customers who receive EUSP funds are placed on a budget billing plan with their utility company spread out year annual utility bills into even monthly payments to avoid spikes caused by seasonal fluctuations in energy use.
Electric and Gas Retirement Assistance Programs
Benefits are also available to help pay past due balances on electric and gas utility accounts. Eligible customers receive assistance for a portion of their current electric bills and/or forgiveness of up to $2,000 toward their past due bill. Customers must have a past due bill of $300 or greater to be eligible, and may only receive an arrearage grant once every seven years, with certain exceptions.
The new federal COVID-19 relief funding bill allows funding from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to be used for utility costs. More details will be released in the coming weeks.