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AARP Maryland Applauds the General Assembly for Taking Real Steps to Protect Low-income Family Utility Bills with the Passage of SB31/HB397

Utility Bill Money Picture

ANNAPOLIS (April 9, 2021) -- The General Assembly took significant steps late yesterday to protect low-income Marylanders’ utility bills, while also maximizing state funds, with the passage of SB31/HB397.  The legislation ensures that deregulated electricity and natural gas prices offered to families on energy assistance meet, or beat, regulated utility rates.  

“This is a great victory in our ongoing battle to ensure consumer protections for Maryland rate payers. This measure protects the most vulnerable consumers from being hoodwinked by predatory energy suppliers,” said Hank Greenberg, AARP Maryland state director. “When seniors can’t pay their utility bills, they can’t age in place safely. We are pleased that the legislature was able to come together on this important issue.”

“In the original 1999 Electric Choice Act, energy assistance was designed to help make utility bills more affordable for the lowest income families,” said Delegate Brooke E. Lierman (D-46). “Our legislation ensures that hard-earned state resources are not paying down inflated utility bills for families receiving Office of Home Energy Programs grants.”

SB31/HB397 will create a new “Guaranteed Savings Plan” for deregulated suppliers selling to Maryland households on energy assistance. Suppliers that choose to participate in the new program will commit to price their offers, equal to or lower, than regulated utility rates.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, energy suppliers target low-income ZIP codes and charge significantly higher home energy prices as compared to regulated utility supply offers.

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Nancy Carr/AARP Maryland

“During the pandemic, 18 to 20 different energy suppliers sold door-to-door in Maryland’s low-income and minority neighborhoods,” said Sen. Mary L. Washington (D-43). “These are the very families that energy assistance aims to help, and our bill makes sure they don’t overpay for Retail Choice.”

“This is the right thing to do,” said Tammy Bresnahan, director of advocacy for AARP Maryland. “Reforming deregulated energy is a priority for AARP Maryland and our members. Seniors, especially on fixed incomes, are vulnerable to the deceptive savings pitches that appear to be good on the surface, but quickly soar to rates that can be as high as double the utility rates after the fine-print teaser rates expire.”

If SB31/HB397 is signed into law, the "Guaranteed Savings Plan" will take effect January 2023. 

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