New Hampshire Approves Energy Assistance Package

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire lawmakers on Thursday approved emergency aid for those residents hardest hit by drastically higher electric bills.

The proposal passed by the House and Senate scales back the plan proposed by Gov. Chris Sununu in June to use $60 million in surplus money to give all ratepayers a $100 automatic credit. Instead, lawmakers targeted $35 million to those earning from 60% to 75% of the state’s median income, which is $75,000 to $93,000 per year for a family of four.

Those who are eligible and apply will get $200 credits on their electric bills and $450 for heating assistance. Residents with incomes below that threshold already are eligible for other funds.

Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, said she would prefer a longer-term solution that addresses energy production and delivery, “but today we have a short-term Band Aid before us.”

“This is one step, and the next step and the step after that will be taken by the next legislature,” she said. “But to not take the first step today would be to deny a modicum of relief to people who desperately need it.”

Electric bills are jumping by about 50%, in part because utilities are passing along higher supply costs driven by the global market for natural gas.

“We can debate the causes of it all day long,” said Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Woleboro. “What we can’t debate is the fact that hard working New Hampshire families are struggling and need help.”

Sununu said the legislation differs from what he proposed but is nonetheless “a big win.”

“New Hampshire just delivered the largest energy relief package this state has ever seen, helping families in need this winter,” he said. “Thanks to strong fiscal management, New Hampshire is able to invest state-surplus funds to help families get through this winter.”

Lawmakers had to suspend the rules to consider the last-minute legislation on a day reserved for taking up eight bills vetoed by Sununu earlier in the year. Lawmakers failed to override any of the vetoes.