By Norm Needleman, State Senator.
(Dec. 3, 2020) — Please take a few minutes to read an important update regarding electric bills. Plus, I want to share about Estuary Transit District offering transportation for COVID-19 testing, assistance for local farmers, and how Connecticut is working to close the digital divide.
PURA Makes Decision to Overhaul Rate Adjustment Process After Summer Price Hikes
After significant rate hikes spiked energy customers’ electric bills in the summer, causing widespread outcry, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority issued a ruling dictating an overhaul of the rate adjustment process as well as a mandatory redesign of how customer’s electric bills will read. What does this mean? In short, in the future, your electric bills will soon be redesigned to ensure increased transparency, meaning you will know what you’re paying for, and the rates you pay after May 2021 will be calculated differently.
PURA discovered the COVID-19 epidemic was responsible for a significant shift in energy consumption patterns, which itself caused fluctuations in regional energy market prices. That caused the summer’s rate increase to swing unacceptably harshly toward the public. As such, PURA will shift away from a forecast-based rate development process in the near future, as incorrect predictions made early in the year, before the long-term changes of the pandemic became evident, helped cause the “unjustifiably high rates” too many customers saw. Future adjustments to this process are expected to make consumer energy costs more stable, also allowing for further review before any future rate hikes are considered. The new process will see semi-annual adjustments based on actual revenues and approved expenses from the previous calendar year rather than projections in future years. PURA leaders said these shifts should represent savings for electricity customers in the future.
Eversource Payment Programs Still in Place for Those In Need
With the increasing burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting countless residents around the state, Eversource continues to offer payment programs and assistance to those needing help. Any household with income at or below 60 percent of state median income, which is $37,645 for one person or $72,394 for a family of four, is eligible for income-based assistance. Qualifying gas and electric customers experiencing financial hardship are not allowed to see a service turnoff through May 1, protecting them against the winter elements. A matching payment program is in place for electric and gas heating customers, who can reduce past due balances with monthly payments. By calling 800-286-2828 or visiting 211ct.org, households can enroll and apply; once enrolled, Eversource will match payments and energy assistance down to a zero balance over time. Those receiving public assistance benefits could see payments reduced to as low as $50. Electric customers can also enter the New Start program, where Eversource will eliminate or forgive portions of past-due balance when scheduled monthly payments are made.
Estuary Transit District Offering Complimentary Transportation for COVID Testing
The Estuary Transit District’s complimentary COVID-19 testing transportation is available seven days a week to any resident within the district for free. Anyone may book a trip, if they live in the area, by calling Curtin Transportation at 860-443-1655. Reservations may be made between 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with at least one day’s advance notice. Up to three companions may ride along, though they must have the same origin and destination. All riders are required to wear a mask, the vehicles are equipped with protection barriers and the vehicle is cleaned between each ride. Complimentary testing will be available through June 30, 2021 or until funding is exhausted.
Connecticut Receives Disaster Designation After Tropical Storm Isaias
The federal Department of Agriculture has approved the state’s request for an agricultural disaster designation after the extensive damage sustained in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias in early August. This designation means farmers in five of the state’s eight counties – Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, New London and Windham – will be eligible for certain federal disaster assistance, such as emergency loans, to cover production losses caused by the storm. Farmers in Fairfield, Litchfield and Tolland counties will still be eligible for emergency assistance as those counties were declared to have “contiguous disaster” status. To apply, farmers should contact their closest Farm Service Agency, or FSA, office; applications must be submitted within a year of the storm, meaning farmers have until August 2021 to apply.
Connecticut Becomes First State to Provide Learning Devices to Every Grade-School Student in Need
Connecticut has become the first state in the country to provide learning devices to every student in need from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade, helping close the digital divide in the state as many schools have shifted to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every student in need has now been supplied with a learning device and a reliable internet connection. Earlier this year, Connecticut invested at least $67 million into an effort to provide more than 140,000 laptops and 44,000 internet connections for students; this puts Connecticut third in the country in spending per remotely learning student.
Haddam Revaluation Hearing Appointments Available to Schedule
Notices for the property reassessment and revaluation in Haddam will go out to the public this week, containing information for anyone with questions about their assessments. Starting on December 4, anyone with further questions can call a number on their assessments to schedule a hearing; hearings will run from December 7 to December 16. If you do not receive a notice by December 8, please call the assessor’s office at 860-345-8531 x213; beginning December 4, the website Haddam.equalitycama.com will allow you to make an appointment or see your new assessment.
Friends of Machimoodus and Sunrise State Parks Seeking New Members
The Friends of Machimoodus and Sunrise State Parks, supporters of the parks who host hikes, create informative trail map pamphlets and have installed important resources like a pet waste receptacle, are seeking new members. The Friends of MachSun, as they are also known, are working to create a memorial pollinator garden and seek to continue to promote the benefits of outdoor activity, caring for local spaces. Volunteers often work with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to clear parks and trails of debris. More information, and signups, are available at www.machsun.org or www.facebook.com/FriendsofMachimoodusSunrise.