In a unanimous decision by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) on Wednesday, the agency established a two-tiered discount rate for low-income Connecticut residents struggling to afford electricity. PURA ordered that the state’s electric distribution companies offer the discount as soon as possible, but no later than Jan. 1st, 2024.

Households earning less than 60 percent of the state median income — $76,465 for a family of four — will qualify for Tier 1, which offers a 10 percent discount on the customer’s monthly electric bill. Households that earn up to 160 percent of the federal poverty guideline — $44,400 for a family of four — will qualify for the Tier 2 discount of 50 percent.

Customers coded as “financial hardship” with electric distribution companies will be automatically enrolled in Tier 1, as well as customers who receive awards through the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP). To receive the Tier 2 discount, customers will have to opt-in. PURA has mandated that the companies start accepting applications by August 2023 and notify eligible customers.

Through the program, PURA also aims to reduce “uncollectibles”, which refers to unpaid electric bills that are socialized across all other electric customers, increasing electric rates for all ratepayers. According to the PURA decision, the actions the agency is taking to make electricity costs more affordable are designed to lessen unpaid bills, as well as the need for service disconnections and reconnections, which will benefit all ratepayers.

PURA Chairperson Marissa Gillett thanked PURA staff as well as the Center for Children’s Advocacy, the Office of the Consumer Counsel, and Operation Fuel, for their work over the last two years developing the rate proposal.

“I really think this is a momentous decision,” Gillett said.

PURA intends to reevaluate the program every other year, with the first review expected in 2025.

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Tom Hopkins wrote for CII from April 2022 to February 2023. Prior to joining CII, he worked in print, television, and as a freelance journalist.

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