Proposed rate increase for PECO customers reduced, family caregivers’ concerns to take center stage in Capitol, and more state budget shenanigans
They’re baaaaack! Members of the General Assembly returned to Harrisburg this week and immediately faced another showdown with Governor Wolf on the state budget. But before we discuss that, I would like to share good news for PECO electric customers and information on an upcoming event which will shine a spotlight on the concerns of family caregivers.
PECO Electric Consumers Benefit from Rate Case Settlement
On September 10 th, a settlement was reached on a utility rate case involving a request from PECO to increase rates. This settlement will mean that 1.6 million PECO customers will see an increase in their monthly bill of $1.32 instead of the $4.87 the utility company had requested.
Earlier this year, PECO Electric applied to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) for an increase in its fixed customer charge from $7.13 to $12 per month, along with other adjustments in its billing. The fixed customer charge is the amount every customer pays in order to have electricity in their home. For lower-income customers and those who do not use a lot of electricity, this is an especially difficult part of the monthly bill because there is no way to conserve and lower your charges.
When AARP Pennsylvania heard about PECO’s request to increase its charges, staff and volunteers worked hard to demonstrate the negative impact this increase could have on many Pennsylvanians. AARP Volunteer Valda Branison joined consumers at a PUC public hearing in Philadelphia to testify against the proposed increase in the customer charge.
Ultimately, a settlement of the case was reached, with PECO agreeing to a much smaller increase in the fixed customer charge than they had requested. The settlement has been agreed to by PECO and the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate, which represented consumers in the formal intervention in the case. It awaits final approval by the Public Utility Commission.
Rally for Family Caregivers to Take Place in Capitol Rotunda on September 22
On September 22 nd, AARP volunteers will gather in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg to highlight the concerns of family caregivers in Pennsylvania and to urge the Pennsylvania Senate to approve the CARE Act (HB 1329) which passed the House of Representatives in June.
Elaine Ryan, AARP’s National Vice President for State Advocacy and Strategy, will lead an impressive roster of speakers discussing the needs of family caregivers, which will include Teresa Osborne, Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging, and legislators from both political parties. Volunteers will visit the offices of State Senators to drop off information about family caregiving and HB 1329, a bill that would help caregivers to better care for their loved ones after a hospital discharge.
The CARE Act will provide much-needed support to more than 2.7 million Pennsylvanians currently serving as unpaid caregivers, making it possible for their loved ones to live independently at home and could reduce the risk of unnecessary hospital readmissions.
The legislation features three key provisions:
- That a caregiver be designated upon a loved one’s hospital admission
- That the facility notifies the caregiver of the discharge plan
- That the facility provide an explanation and live instruction of all medical tasks – such as medication management, injections, wound care, and transfers – that the family caregiver will perform at home.
This common-sense approach facilitates communication between caregivers and medical staff and provides vital training for caregivers on how to administer medical tasks, which could positively impact their loved one’s recovery and quality of life.
General Assembly Acts on Stop-Gap Budget Measure – Governor Pledges a Veto
A tense day of budget negotiations on September 16 th appeared to produce little in the way of progress, so legislative leaders announced their intention to move forward with a temporary spending plan that would fund government services until the end of October at the levels set in budget passed by the General Assembly, but rejected by the Governor, in June. The Senate is likely to vote on the proposal on September 18 th, and the House may consider it as early as Monday, September 21 st.
Governor Tom Wolf announced his intention to veto any short-term spending plan at a press conference earlier this week. The Governor stated he had offered compromises on pension reform and liquor sales, but said legislators would not budge in their opposition to his tax proposals. Legislative leaders, meanwhile, stated they offered the Governor increased funding for his top priority, education, but said he would not drop his insistence on increased taxes. Pressure continues to mount on both sides as more schools and service providers face difficulties meeting payrolls.
“Ray’s Round Up” features updates on current state and federal issues by Ray Landis, AARP PA’s Advocacy Manager.