PPA Opposes Move to Decrease LIHEAP Funding

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The Pennsylvania Petroleum Association reports that the House Consumer Affairs, Technology and Utilities Committee held a hearing on HB 1077 on Chapter 14 re-authorization for Pennsylvania utility law. Chapter 14 regulates the bill collection practices of utilities, including allowable processes in cases of termination and reconnection of service. This section is reviewed and needs to be authorized by the General Assembly every ten years, according to the Jan. 22 issue of the PPA’s newsletter, Express Update.

“At the Committee hearing, advocates for low-income customers argued that current law should be amended to provide more flexibility for customers struggling to pay their utility bills,” Express Update reports. “The association representing the utilities indicated their opposition to most of those proposals. In the meantime, the legislation was reported out of the Senate (SB 1017) Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee this past December that reflected much of the utilities views regarding Chapter 14.

“Although most of the discussion surrounding this issue does not directly impact deliverable fuel customers, one provision in the Senate version would have a serious detrimental effect on oil heat and propane LIHEAP. Under the current LIHEAP program, utilities are prohibited from terminating customers for lack of payment in the winter months. In general, utility customers in terminated situations receive LIHEAP benefits following the moratorium.

“A provision in the Senate Bill 1017 would allow the LIHEAP utility customer to receive Crisis benefits at the time a late payment notice was received during the season. This change would likely lead to Crisis grants being directed to utility customers in amounts that would threaten the availability of funds to deliverable fuel customers (of both Crisis and Cash benefits).

“PPA has weighed in its opposition to this plan and has reached out to the Department of Human Services and low-income groups to work together [to] block its implementation. Because of the divide between the various interest groups on the Chapter 14 Reauthorization, the discussion in the legislature will likely continue for the balance of 2024.”

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